Increasing Course Evaluation Participation

Submitted by Mary Kate Morgan

At the end of each semester, students get emailed continuously about completing course evaluation forms, which often go incomplete. As a student, I know there are many different reasons why this may happen, because I too, am sometimes guilty of not filling out the evaluations. For one, some students do not know the importance of these evaluations and do not believe that professors take time to read them and look at the results. Some students do not believe that evaluations are truly anonymous.  Another reason students may not be filling the evaluations out is the lack of time they have during the end of the year. Yes, the surveys may only take a few minutes, but if a student has five classes that could be over an hour that the student could have spent studying, writing, exercising, or more importantly sleeping. Also during this busy time of year, many students just simply forget.

So how should instructors encourage students to complete their evaluation surveys? The Center for Teaching and Learning at UC Berkeley (2018) has created 5 tips and explanations:
  1. Reserve time during class at the end of the semester for students to complete the survey. For me, this always demonstrated how important the evaluation is to the professor. This also allows the professor to help students find the survey in case the students are new, or the survey is located in different tabs located on a web page. My professors have stepped out of the classroom while students complete the evaluation so we did not feel intimidated and could answer honestly.
  2. Monitor the response rate to further prompt the students and provide additional encouragement. I recently had a professor email the class to let us know that only 30% had completed the evaluation and reminded us of the last day to complete it. This demonstrated that my professor really cared about the evaluation and valued our feedback.
  3. Inform students about the purpose of evaluations. Explain how universities use feedback for merit and promotion. Instructors should let students know how they have changed their courses based on student feedback. In my first year of graduate school, I heard several of my professors say “last year’s students informed of this, so I made some changes to the syllabus, let me know if you think the changes were a good idea or not.” This encouraged me to provide feedback because I felt confident that the professor would take my opinions and suggestions seriously.
  4. Make it an assignment on your syllabus. If bonus points are not an option, deducting points may be a better option to increase participation. I have also had professors excuse the last quiz or homework grade (not a high percentage of grade) if a set response rate is achieved.
  5. Provide other incentives for students: a) offer extra points to all students if a set response rate is achieved, b) use the honor system and give an incentive to students who affirm that they have completed the evaluation, or c) request a screenshot showing that the evaluation has been completed.
Family scientists recognize the importance of evaluations/surveys. It is important to use evaluations to revise courses based on students reported experiences. It is common in family science classes for professors to try new techniques, assignments, group projects, and ways of discussing topics in class, and getting feedback is important for perfecting the way a subject is taught. Once I learned how important evaluations are to professors and that they are actually valued, I made completing course evaluations a priority. Hearing examples of changes made to the class because of feedback provided by evaluations that benefited the class, i.e. less reading material, made me want to help the future students by providing my professors with feedback. If professors value and use the feedback provided from evaluations, but are not getting the results they want, trying one of the tips listed above may help.

For more information: Center for Teach and Learning at UC Berkeley (2018). How can instructors encourage students to complete course evaluations and provide informative responses? Retrieved from:

Image credit: Wellman 205 by Wearn CC BY-NC-ND 2.0



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