So, you are going for promotion and need to be able to “prove” your teaching or curriculum design creds or your HoD has required an update of how you’re going… how do you do it? One way is to be able to present a set of valid student survey reports, with the key word here being “valid”. Validity in this context is based on the response rate to your survey, i.e., how many of your students responded to the invitation to take part in the survey as a percentage of students enrolled.

Students are happy to provide their perspectives on your teaching once they realise that you and the university are interested in what they have to say and that you will take their input into account when it comes to teaching practice. The challenge then is to gain their attention. Three things will help you achieve that.

1 – Be mindful

You should be considering how to evaluate your teaching or unit design right from the get-go, perhaps even before the study period commences. Consider those aspects of teaching or design that you are most interested in obtaining the students’ perspective on and identify questions in the survey question bank that may articulate this.

The TEDS question bank contains question groups focussed on many different aspects of practice – for unit surveys we focus on Assessment & Feedback, Coherence, LO alignment and Capstone, Content and coverage, Co-teaching across levels, Inclusion and belonging, Information and organisation, Integrated technology and blended learning, Learning experiences & activities, Motivation and engagement, Specific Learning Contexts, Unit resources, Unit teaching, and Workload. For teaching surveys, we have selected questions where the focus is on Collaborative and active learning, Blended Learning, Online Teaching, Teaching in Tutorials/Workshops, Teaching Large Groups, Laboratory Teaching/Demonstrating, Clinical Teaching, Assessment and Feedback, Teaching Indigenous Students, Communication and Organisation, Inclusive Practice, and Engaging students.

2 – Engage your students

This is perhaps the key factor. The single largest factor influencing student response rates is their engagement with the process and one way to gain their engagement is to remind them that they are “members” of the university, not just students; they are part of an international body of scholars with rights and responsibilities. The university, and you as their teacher, have a responsibility to give the students your best shot, and they, in turn, have a responsibility to give back an honest and reflective assessment of their perceptions of teaching or curriculum.

You need to let them know that the University, and you personally, take their responses very seriously and that their reflective input is genuinely used in improving teaching practice and curriculum design. While they might not directly benefit from the input they provide, they are already benefiting from the input of students who have gone before them.

3 – Be strategic

Like you, students are busy people and have many things competing for their attention – your aim viz-a-viz student surveys is to ensure that the survey gets an appropriate share of that attention and that you capture input from as many of your students as you can. Assuming you have reflected on what it is you want to get out of the survey, and that you have engaged the students in the process, you then need to keep them engaged. You can achieve this by following some very basic steps. 

First, plan to administer the survey during a specific class at a point in the study period where you can be reasonably certain that most students will turn up to class. This applies whether the survey is to be delivered using paper-based questionnaires or delivered online.

Early in the study period let the students know that you will be carrying out a survey later in the period, and that you and the University value their input – begin gaining their engagement.

About a week before you plan to administer the survey remind the students that the survey is coming, and that they should be reflecting on the teaching or unit design in preparation for providing their input.

A day before the survey is to be administered, review the instructions that were sent when your online survey was scheduled or were contained in your paper-based survey pack. On the day of the survey itself, administer the survey at the beginning of the class – you should allow 15 to 20 minutes for an LEU or LET or about 10 minutes for a SPoTS survey (MQBS only).

If you follow these simple steps, you will greatly improve your chances of achieving a valid response rate.

The Teaching Evaluation for Development Service (TEDS) manages the ordering and processing of student feedback surveys on teaching and units. For enquiries about ordering and administering TEDS surveys, please contact teds@mq.edu.au

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Posted by Michael Marston

Business analyst/Crystal report writer by trade. Came to Macquarie in 1999 on a six week contract, and stayed. Worked on Student One implementation and support at MQ and UTS until 2010 when I came to Learning & Teaching and have been in the L&T space ever since. Previous positions in no particular order include organization & methods analyst, bank loans officer, part-time soldier, national support manager for a major insurance company, financial controller for an SME, sky guide, yardsman/labourer, got a BA majoring in philosophy and a Masters in Higher Education.

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