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Obtaining Feedback on Instruction

12 Ways To Obtain Feedback On Instruction*

There are many simple but useful teaching improvement activities which can be easily and inexpensively implemented by a faculty member throughout an academic term. Twelve examples are presented in this section. Not every method is suitable to every course or instructional style, of course, but many do have wide applicability.

1. Design a questionnaire which will elicit background information about your students that you suspect influences the instructional process (e.g., their expectations for the course, their prior academic or job-related experiences, and their learning styles). The "questionnaire" need be no more than a few questions written on the chalkboard and the answers turned in by the students. There are a number of ways such information can be used to improve the course. They include individualized or optional assignments; remedial, review, or enrichment materials put on library reserve; and more directed, relevant, and lively discussions both in and out of class by drawing out those students whose prior background and experience might enhance the understanding of the entire class.

2. Ask students for feedback periodically throughout the course of an academic term. This can be done by asking students specific questions about how well particular aspects of the course are going or eliciting their suggestions for how you might improve your teaching style to help them learn more effectively. In designing a mid-quarter evaluation, be sure to select questions on aspects of the course or your teaching that you can change during the rest of the quarter if it seems desirable. For example, an instructor might ask if more or less time should be set aside for questions or discussion, or if the pace of the lectures is too fast. Such questions should reflect hypotheses the instructor has based on previous experience, informal student comments, or a specific change in teaching style or content which s/he has made since last teaching the course. Questions about the entire organization of the course, the selection of reading assignments, the need for revision of a lab manual--i.e., aspects of the course which cannot be changed until the next offering of the course--should be postponed until the end of the course so that student expectations for change are not raised unrealistically. In very large courses, sampling procedures can be used.

3. Audiotape or videotape your lectures from time to time to improve the organization and clarity of presentation. To schedule a videotaping of your teaching free of charge, contact Television Services' TA Taping and Scheduling Program (be sure to specify that you are faculty). You may also schedule a consultation for viewing your tape with a consultant from Office of Instructional Consultation. If the idea of videotaping seems either too time-consuming or too threatening, you may wish to try audiotape instead. Although audiotape does not enable you to see yourself as students do, many faculty members have found that audiotape is an unobtrusive method for getting information to help them increase the organization and adjust the pace of their lectures.

4. Ask to borrow several students' lecture notes periodically. The difference between what a teacher says and what a student hears--when that difference exists--is often not apparent to either. Compare students' notes with your own lecture outline or with an audiotape of your lectures.

5. Set up a Student Liaison Committee of 3-5 students to meet with you weekly to discuss how the course is going, its strengths and weaknesses, etc. Let other students know who the members are and encourage members to talk with other students to get their gripes and kudos as well.

6. Ask a colleague, friend, or campus resource person to sit in on your class. Develop a set of specific questions about your teaching style which you would like him/her to observe closely and then discuss with you.

7. At the end of each academic quarter, fill out a copy of the teaching evaluation form given to students in your department. After final grades are submitted, compare your own self-ratings and comments with those of your students. If there are discrepancies between your own and students' assessments of the class, explore the implications of these with an understanding colleague, TA, or a consultant from Office of Instructional Consultation.

8. Ask to visit classes of several colleagues you consider to be excellent teachers. Note concrete things that they do in delivering lectures, leading student discussions, conducting laboratory or studio courses etc., and talk to them afterwards about their rationale, out-of-class preparations, etc. See if you can adapt some of their teaching methods.

9. Find out which faculty members on your campus are involved in instructional innovations, e.g., self-paced mastery learning approaches, computer-assisted instruction, small group discussion techniques in large classes, etc. Current campus innovations in instructional technology are showcased in presentations and workshops at the annual Faculty Institute on Teaching with Technology.

10. Get someone to help you organize a departmental or campus-wide colloquia series or a noon time brown bag luncheon series on topics related to teaching improvement. Invite faculty members to serve on panels or informally lead discussions on such topics as "Designing Effective Examinations," "Techniques for Encouraging Class Discussion" or "Methods of Incorporating Computer-Assisted Instruction in Your Courses." If there are experts on any of these topics among faculty or staff on campus (and in most cases there are), be sure to seek them out for inclusion. Visiting faculty can also be a useful resource because they bring ideas and experiences that sometimes are quite different from those of your own department or campus. Office of Instructional Consultationwould be happy to assist in developing and implementing your ideas (x2972).

11. Find out whether your national or regional professor association has a division or special interest group on teaching in your discipline. Many disciplinary associations also have newsletters or journals devoted to teaching. The quality of this literature continues to improve many of the articles are excellent. If your field does not have such an association or journal, explore activities of a closely related field. While some teaching strategies are very content-bound, others are easily transferred from one subject matter to another. UCSB faculty can obtain a free copy of Teaching Tips by W.J. McKeachie by calling Office of Instructional Consultation at x2972.

12. Apply for a campus instructional improvement grant alone or with colleagues to experiment with new ways of teaching in your discipline. These grant programs not only are helpful in providing resources that might be required to improve instruction; they also provide a framework to help you identify the instructional problem or need you wish to address and explore various options which might help solve the problem or respond to the need.  [Note: funding for Instructional Development's 2010-2011 Instructional Improvement Grant program is still to be confirmed.]

*Reproduced and updated from Outcalt, D.L. (ed). "Twelve Faculty-Initiated Evaluation and Improvement Activities." Report of the Task Force on Teaching Evaluation. University of California, 1980.

consultation contacts

George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
lisa berrysenior instructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
Mary Lou Ramos database and ESCI administrator1130 Kerr Hall
TBD ESCI assistant1124 Kerr Hall


Laurel Shaddixoffice manager 1130 Kerr Hall
faxfax: 805-893-5915