Student evaluations of teaching (SET) were originally intended as instruments to help faculty improve their teaching. At UCLA, however, SETs have taken on a major role in the assessment of teaching for the purposes of academic advancement and teaching awards. These usages of SETs are problematic because, rather than reporting learning, numerical scores on SETs are thought to report student satisfaction. The Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) has convened a committee working to develop a new SET intended to refocus evaluations on gathering student feedback that will help faculty to improve their teaching.

In contrast to the current standard SET, the newly developed form has fewer, more specifically focused, closed-ended questions centered on teaching approaches known to increase student learning. At the same time, the committee has removed overall questions (e.g., “What is your overall rating of the instructor?”), which correlate poorly with learning and that are often biased by such factors as instructor charisma, gender, ethnicity, age, and students’ anticipated grades. The new form’s questions instead focus on the following three major themes:

  1. Was the course structured to allow students to achieve the learning goals and demonstrate this achievement?
  2. Were the students actively engaged and did they feel included?
  3. Did the course provide an opportunity for growth?

Interspersed throughout the closed-ended questions are multiple comment boxes so that students may clarify or explain their responses to closed-ended questions. An additional benefit afforded by the new form is that it allows instructors to customize questions to solicit feedback on aspects of learning that are unique to their individual course, thus providing opportunities to gain insight into aspects of their teaching that may not typically be able to discern from the current standard form.

Versions of the form have been piloted by more than 1500 students and 25 instructors. The vast majority of the feedback from both students and instructors has been positive. The form was presented to the Committee on Teaching (CoT) in Spring 2019, and after revisions, the CoT voted to officially support moving the project forward.

If you have questions regarding the SET pilot project, please contact Erin Sparck at esparck@teaching.ucla.edu