Course evaluations at St. Olaf College are formative in nature, designed to foster improvements in teaching and learning. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment is available to provide advice on developing, administering, and summarizing course evaluations.
The principal purpose of the course evaluation system at St. Olaf is to improve course content and instructional practice in ways that enhance student learning. All faculty members are strongly encouraged to administer course evaluations on a regular basis to promote their continued development as teachers and mentors. All faculty members must administer evaluations in two classes (pro-rated for partial teaching loads) of their choice each academic year as part of the College’s faculty review process (see Faculty Personnel Policies and Procedures section of the Faculty Manual, under Faculty Evaluation and Review). Whether for review or for the instructor’s independent use, course evaluations are selected and administered by instructors and are intended for the instructor’s professional development.
Instructors may use any questionnaire they wish in gathering student feedback on the effectiveness of course content and instruction. The College does not require the use of a standardized form, although there are sample forms available that some instructors have used for a number of years. Instructors are encouraged to develop, adapt, or borrow questionnaires that address their principal concerns about course content or instruction, and that will help them sustain and strengthen student learning. All course evaluation questionnaires should include instructions that explain the purposes and confidential nature of the course evaluation process; suggested text is provided with the sample forms.
Instructors may administer course evaluations on paper or electronically, via Google Forms (available as a template; see St. Olaf College Course Evaluation template). Whatever the questionnaire or the method of administration, it is essential to ensure that student participation is voluntary, that individual responses cannot be linked to specific students, and that responses will have no impact on students’ grades, their relationship with the instructor, or their relationship with the College. The above links include specific suggestions for ensuring voluntary and anonymous participation in the administration of both paper and electronic evaluation forms.
Results from course evaluations are provided only to the instructor and may be shared with others (including department chairs) only by, or at the request of, the instructor. Please note that IE&A does not summarize data from individual course evaluations or aggregate data across instructors, courses or semesters. If you use online forms, remember to download and save your results. The creator of the form will only be able to access results as long as he or she has a valid St. Olaf username. You can download or print results from Google Forms, or save to a Google Sheet, but if the creator of the form leaves the college, the results will be lost from the system; they cannot be retrieved by IE&A staff or anyone else.
Course evaluations in relation to faculty reviews
Course evaluation results are not included in dossiers for pre-tenure, tenure, or promotion reviews. Instead, student reviews of teaching are solicited in a separate process overseen by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, using forms keyed directly to the Standards for Faculty Evaluation in the St. Olaf Faculty Manual. While course evaluation results themselves are not included in dossiers, there is still a specific role that course evaluations can play in these reviews. A faculty member’s use of course evaluation results for instructional improvement is specifically cited as evidence of his or her continued development as an instructor, one of the five criteria for evaluating a faculty member’s contributions to student learning and development cited in the Faculty Manual.
Course evaluation results are included in the post-tenure review process. As noted above, tenured faculty members must administer evaluations in two or more classes of their choice each academic year and share the results with the department chair. The accumulated results will inform the faculty member’s professional development plan and the professional development discussion between the faculty member, his or her department chair(s), and his or her associate dean(s) in the fourth year after the faculty member’s sabbatical.
In addition, sharing course evaluation results is required annually for Term and Teaching Specialist faculty.