Standard 6.4 and Course Evaluations.

How to “evaluate” the tools you use to evaluate student learning.

ARTS Standard 6-4 asks the question, how are you evaluating the instruments which you are using to assess student learning? One of the most common responses is that institutions are using course evaluation form. One issue that I noted from a review of the ARTS Annual Reports is that schools often don’t understand how to apply this standard. So here’s an example.

One of the questions I took from a school’s course evaluation was: “This course made important contributions of my understanding of the Bible” — The options for response were “Yes” or “No”. To apply Standard 6-4 would be to evaluate the effectiveness of your student course evaluation forms, and to evaluate the individual questions you ask in your evaluations. As we will see below, this question can be significantly improved.

The question, “This course made important contributions to my understanding of the Bible,” while straightforward, has some problems that can be improved to gather more meaningful feedback:

  1. Lack of Nuance: The question only provides two response options, “yes” and “no,” which doesn’t allow for a nuanced evaluation of the course’s impact. It doesn’t capture the extent or degree of the contributions made to the student’s understanding.
  2. Limited Insight: It doesn’t provide specific details or examples of how the course contributed to the understanding of the Bible. This limits the instructor’s ability to identify what aspects of the course were particularly effective or areas that might need improvement.
  3. No Room for Comments: The question doesn’t include an open-ended comment section where students can provide qualitative feedback, suggestions, or additional context for their responses. Such comments can offer valuable insights into the student experience.

To improve this question, you could consider the following:

Revised Question: “To what extent did this course contribute to your understanding of the Bible?”

Response Options:

  1. Significantly
  2. Moderately
  3. Slightly
  4. Not at all

Additional Comment Section: Include an open-ended comment section where students can provide specific examples, suggestions for improvement, or elaborate on their responses.

This revised question allows for a more nuanced evaluation of the course’s impact and provides valuable qualitative feedback that can help instructors and course developers make targeted improvements to the curriculum and teaching methods. As you can see, the application of a little common sense in question design will help to improve the feedback your school receives from it’s evaluation and assessment instruments.

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