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processing student comments

This document is intended for departmental ESCI liaisons, and addresses procedural and logistical issues. For help with processing student comments in the sense of interpreting their collective meaning, please contact a Consultant in the Office of Instructional Consultation (x2972).

It is common for departments and for individual instructors to ask students to respond with written narrative to some survey questions, and/or to add written comments to their structured responses to fixed-choice questions. How can these narrative responses best be handled?

The answer will depend upon the purpose underlying the questions, and on departmental practice and resources. The major options are:

  1. Do the minimum. This usually involves:

    • Collecting the sheet(s) on which the comments are written (click here for a discussion of alternative procedures for deciding which method of handing out and collecting narrative responses is to be used). Obviously each classes’ response sheets must be kept in one labeled bundle, so that there is no question which course is being rated. In order to protect against confusion and error, it is recommended that students be asked to write the course name and number on any sheet to be collected, if it is not already labeled by something printed on it.
    • Maintaining confidentiality of the sheets until after grades have been turned in, so that the appearance and the reality is that an instructor cannot identify the author of specific comments and therefore no influence on the assigned course grade can be attributed to the course rating process.  
    • Making duplicate copies of all sheets, so that the department can keep the original, and the copy can be given to the instructor (together with the final summary report of fixed-choice questions from ESCI, which usually is received in the department by the third week of the quarter after the ratings were done.) This feedback from students is an important factor in helping instructors improve the quality of courses.
    • Giving the sheets (preferably copies) to the instructor, along with the ESCI summary report, after course grades have been submitted.  
    • Filing the originals. Usually these are kept in files organized “by instructor,”so that the information is readily available for periodic academic personnel reviews.
       
  2. Further protect student anonymity by typing narrative responses. This usually involves:
    • Collecting the sheet(s) on which the comments are written (click here for a discussion of alternative procedures for deciding which method of handing out and collecting narrative responses is to be used). Obviously each classes’ response sheets must be kept in one labeled bundle, so that there is no question which course is being rated. In order to protect against confusion and error, it is recommended that students be asked to write the course name and number on any sheet to be collected, if it is not already labeled by something printed on it.
    • Maintaining confidentiality of the sheets until after grades have been turned in, so that the appearance and the reality is that an instructor cannot identify the author of specific comments and therefore no influence on the assigned course grade can be attributed to the course rating process.  
    • Typing the responses. This usually is done by department staff. It is important that the process of typing reproduce what the students wrote as accurately as possible, meaning do not correct mistakes of spelling and grammar. Advantages: Protects anonymity – typed responses mean that an instructor is less likely to be able to identify the particular author of a response.
      Disadvantages: Costly – in most situations, typing the comments is not a trivial task, and requires considerable time on the part of permanent or temporary staff.
    • Giving the sheets (preferably copies) to the instructor, along with the ESCI summary report, after course grades have been submitted.  
    • Filing the originals and a copy of the typed responses. Usually these are kept in files organized “by instructor,”so that the information is readily available for periodic academic personnel reviews.

consultation contacts

George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-2378
lisa berrysenior instructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-8395
mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-2828
Mary Lou Ramos database and ESCI administrator1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-3523
Aisha Wedlaw ESCI assistant1124 Kerr Hall
work805-893-4278
Sarah Koepkeoffice manager 1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-2972
faxfax: 805-893-5915