Evidence from Students
Students provide a valuable and unique perspective into their learning experience. The insight that they provide can be used to reflect on teaching and guide course design and practice and must be included as part of any evaluation of teaching process. Evidence of effectiveness from students includes formal end-of-term feedback (i.e., Student Learning Experience Questionnaire), but may also include other forms of feedback from students and evidence of effective teaching and learning. For example, evidence of the attainment of student learning outcomes including representative assessments completed by students, evidence of effective mentorship, feedback from alumni of particular courses or programs, teaching awards received from students, and other forms of formative or informal feedback curated by an instructor are all examples of evidence from students on teaching.
Student Learning Experience Questionnaires (SLEQ)
Student Learning Experience Questionnaires (SLEQ), previously, “Student Ratings of Instruction [SRI]”) are recognized as an essential component of evidence from students. The majority of credit courses at Dalhousie University are mandated by senate to collect SLEQ feedback, so student feedback in this form is readily available as a source of evidence from students. The questionnaire includes seven Likert-scale and two open-ended questions. They may also include additional questions, added and personalized by an individual faculty member to seek specific feedback on some aspect of their course, or by a department to facilitate course and/or program development.
SLEQ as evidence is most effective when provided with context (e.g. class size, class type, year-level, subject), relevant statistics (e.g. response rate), and represents teaching over multiple courses and years (where possible). They are also more useful when faculty and students are engaged in the process. Most teaching dossiers include some self-reflective comments about student evaluations in the main body of the dossier, as well as the complete SLEQ data in one of the appendices. If your teaching experience is extensive, in terms of the number of years or the variety of courses taught, consider including an “at-a-glance” table or graph, using the most relevant data to give your reflections some context. Suggestions for including student feedback in a dossier is provided below under "Tips for Including Student Comments as Evidence" and our Evidence from Self pages offer more guidance on how to reflect on the variety of evidence of teaching effectiveness.
More detailed information and resources for SLEQ are available on the Student Learning Experience Questionnaire website, and include:
- How to access and use SLEQ reports
- A summary of the report statistics
- Guidelines for Interpreting SLEQ data
- Tips for engaging students and increasing response rate
Before engaging in reflection on student feedback, presenting SLEQ data as evidence, or reviewing SLEQ as part of a teaching dossier, we highly recommend you review the interpretation and statistics summaries provided as part of the SLEQ website.
Other forms of student feedback
SLEQ data is only one form of student feedback you can gather to provide insight into your teaching. Some additional forms of student feedback include:
- Mid-term or end of module feedback: While the SLEQ process typically provides end of course data, your practice can integrate opportunities for formative feedback throughout the course. Mid-term feedback, or feedback at the end of a content module, can help you gain important insight into the student experience during your course. Anonymous Brightspace surveys can be a great tool to collect this formative feedback, using the START-STOP-CONTINUE framing of your questions.
- Unsolicited/Solicited feedback from students: During a course you may receive emails or notes from students sharing their experiences, commenting on their time in the course, or your approaches to teaching. These anecdotes can offer informal insight into the student experience. If you want to use them in your teaching dossier or to formally document your teaching effectiveness, be sure to reach out to the student first and request permission to use that information. In some instances, solicited feedback may be used in the form of formal letters or testimonials from students about their learning experience.
- Mentee/supervisee recommendation letters: You may have requested letters from students for other purposes in the past that speak to your student-instructor relationship in the context of research, work, and/or teaching. While these are considered solicited forms of feedback, they can also be used as evidence into your teaching effectiveness. As with unsolicited feedback from students, you should always ask permission to use these letters for purposes other than their initial intent.
- Attainment of Student Outcomes: You may collect data and/or student work that demonstrate the degree to which students are achieving learning outcomes in your course. For example, you may show this through representative assessments completed by students in your course or through measuring learning gains as the result of some course redesign effort. When including student work, be sure to seek the student's permission to do so.
Tips for including student comments as evidence
You likely will receive some student comments that support statements from your teaching philosophy or illustrate some aspect of your teaching practice. Consider including a few short quotes from students as evidence in the main body of your dossier choosing carefully selected comments, using only the strongest supporting evidence. Be sure to identify the source of the comments you are including, and make sure the context is clear to your readers. If you believe that student comments will lend weight and credibility to your evidence of effective teaching, you may include an additional collection of student comments in an appendix.
Do not skip over or ignore a poor student questionnaire result, but explain the context to your readers. For example, the data might not take into account an unusual circumstance in your course or career. The result may also have been the inspiration for reflection of teaching practice that has led to improved teaching and learning for students. As you finalize your reflections, keep the intent of this reflective writing in mind: make it clear to your readers that you care about student feedback and that you address student concerns. Also, consider the tone of your reflections—no instructor receives perfect scores all the time. Use this opportunity to demonstrate that you seek out and respond to feedback from your students in a positive and effective manner.