Course Evaluations

At Wabash, we do not require the use of a college-wide common course evaluation, which many faculty would perceive as a strength of the College: we believe that collecting feedback from students is a critical part of our teaching, but we would also acknowledge that there are many techniques for soliciting useful feedback. While I would agree that a “one size fits all” approach to course evaluations is not likely to be useful to the faculty as a whole, I was motivated to start a pilot of a common course evaluation by the belief that there is an advantage to developing a common tool which is 1) based on effective teaching practices at Wabash, and 2) which could help us see our individual courses in a larger context (compared to other courses at Wabash). Most of the pilot program has focused on point #1 (developing a common evaluation).

For the past several years, I have been informally coordinating a pilot program, in which we administer a common course evaluation for any faculty members who wish to participate. The evaluation is only intended to provide formative feedback, and to help faculty reflect on how students are experiencing their courses. The questions in the evaluation are based on the outcomes of the Wabash National Study, and focus on questions that identify effective teaching practices at Wabash (more information about the process of identifying questions is given at the end of this email). You can try a test version of the evaluation using this link (  You can also see a PDF version of the survey here.

How to participate:

If you would like to use the common course evaluation in any given semester, please let me know by email (torbertn AT Simply send me the name and course/section number for the course (or courses) you would like to use the evaluation in. I will create a SurveyMonkey survey, and send you a link to the evaluation that you can distribute to your students.

If you need a list of the names of students who complete the survey (for extra credit purposes, or to make sure that only your students are completing the survey), please let me know. If you would like to add questions to the evaluation, I am happy to try to customize the survey (though, as more people ask for customizations, the work involved in administering the survey increases, so I may not be able to accommodate every request).

After final grades are submitted, I’ll send you a summary of the responses for each course (the standard SurveyMonkey results page) which will include the open-ended comments. All responses will be anonymous: students will be asked to provide their names in the survey, but their names will not be included in the feedback to the faculty. Likewise, faculty are also anonymous: I will not share the results of your survey in any way that I think would allow your course to be identified, and I will not provide the raw data to others in any way that allows individual faculty to be identified.

Neil Schmitzer-Torbert

***More background: Back in 2012, I spoke with Charlie Blaich and Bobby Horton about what questions were coming out of the Wabash National Study as being particularly important for teaching and retention at Wabash. Based on those conversations, we put together an evaluation for use in a single course (rather than as a global assessment of a student’s experience at Wabash). The goal was to take some questions that seemed to be important at an institution level (Wabash as a whole) and bring them into our individual courses. We used the evaluation in several courses in the 2012-12 academic year, and I’d like to repeat the process this year with a larger number of faculty and courses.***