Engaging with Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs)

Student evaluations of teaching (SETs) at the end of each semester can provide crucial feedback to faculty about their course and their instructional practices, especially when used in conjunction with other methods for documenting effective teaching, supplemented by ongoing formative surveys to collect student feedback throughout the semester, and combined with multi-factor structures to evaluate faculty performance.


Spring 2022: NEW SET QUESTIONS

In Spring of 2022, Mason implemented a new collection of SET questions to provide more reliable, learning-focused information to faculty about students’ experiences in their courses. In addition, 2021-2022 saw the implementation of the Blue platform, an online portal for collecting all end-of-semester SETs at Mason.

The Effective Teaching Committee of the Mason Faculty Senate, key sponsors of the new evaluation questions, identifies several goals of their proposal to update the SETs:

  1. Increasing the specificity and contextualization of the questions in order to reduce the effects of bias
  2. Matching the questions to key categories used at Mason to define Genuine Excellence in Teaching
  3. Revising questions to focus on student learning, so that feedback is more useful to faculty

For more information about these goals, and about the process of revising, testing, and approving the new questions, please see the ETC’s “Revision History” at the bottom of this page.


SET Administration Recommendations
Prepared by the Effective Teaching Committee, Spring 2022

Instructor and student interactions in a course are always a professional exchange. Instructors are expected to prepare and deliver effective instruction; students are expected to engage in class and complete assignments/assessments in a timely manner. With a focus on growth for all involved, instructors complete thorough, objective assessments of students, and students complete candid but professional evaluations of instructor performance via the questions provided in the Blue platform.

USE THE SYLLABUS to Encourage Students to Complete Course Evaluations

The syllabus is an important communication tool to set expectations for students about the class. By including a paragraph in which the instructor explains the importance as well as the administration of the end-of-course evaluations, instructors help make students  aware of their responsibility to participate and complete them.

Recommendation: A statement as in the following example could be included in the syllabus:

  • Student Evaluations of Teaching: The student evaluation of teaching, or SET, is an online, course-based survey. You are strongly encouraged to participate as this feedback helps instructors and administrators improve your class experiences. Towards the end of the course, you will receive email and Blackboard notifications when the evaluations open. Your anonymous and confidential feedback is only shared with instructors and administrators after final grades have been submitted. More information about the SET can be found on The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning website.
PERSONALIZE Your Evaluation Questions

The Blue platform allows instructors to choose additional questions (beyond the standard set) to help gather more personalized feedback from students. Instructors receive an email from OIEP when the “Question Personalization” window opens. Directions for adding these personalized questions can be found online.

  • Recommendation: Personalize your evaluation questions, inform students of your decisions, and explain why you have done so (e.g., so that these questions better reflect the nature of the course and/or your goals as an instructor). Discussing your personalized questions demonstrates your commitment to your teaching and to students’ growth and provides you with another opportunity to remind students about the existence of and the dates of administration of the evaluation.
KNOW AND PUBLICIZE THE DATES for Your Course Evaluation

By default, full-term course evaluations are open between 20 and 10 calendar days before the session end date (as listed in Banner). These dates can be set for individual courses by the Blue supervisor for the unit (e.g., by department chairs), but the closing date cannot be extended past the course end date as listed in Banner. Administration schedule and supervisor instructions are in the linked resources below.

For faculty who want to discourage submissions before a specified date, the side menu link on Blackboard can be directly disabled/enabled. This does not prevent students from accessing Blue to complete the evaluation, but can reduce the chance of students completing the evaluation before a chosen date, such as when evaluations are discussed in class.

  • Recommendation: Know, and share with students, the overall dates and your preferred time for completing SETs. Ideally, the course evaluation should be completed after most or all instruction has been delivered. Explain to students why you have determined your administration date(s). Discussing your administration dates demonstrates your commitment to your teaching and to students’ growth and provides you with another opportunity to remind students about the existence and the importance of the evaluation.
INFORM STUDENTS of the Course Evaluation Procedure and Administration Window

Students receive both email and Blackboard notifications when a course evaluation is accessible and the window of dates when a course evaluation can be completed.

  • Recommendation: Once you have determined the dates of your course evaluation administration, inform students of these dates, emphasizing the importance (to you and your program) of them completing these evaluations. Informing students of these dates again demonstrates your commitment to your teaching and to students’ growth.
SHARE with Students the Purpose of the Course Evaluations

Students are often unsure about the purpose, uses, and impact of course evaluations.

  • Recommendation: Before the course evaluation window opens, explain to students the various purposes, uses, and impact of the course evaluations. Emphasize your personal/professional commitment to improvement as an instructor and how the course evaluations can promote that growth. Highlight how course evaluation data can be used as a “pay it forward” effort: students’ feedback now can help instructors to serve other students better in the future.
REMIND STUDENTS of the Course Evaluation Procedure and Administration Window

Students will receive email and Blackboard reminders about the existence of and dates of administration of the course evaluations. They often benefit from having their instructor also directly remind them of the importance and schedule of SETs.

  • Recommendation: Remind students in class to complete the evaluations in the time provided. Send electronic reminders when the evaluations open, and again a day or two before they close.  Frequent reminders via the same communication medium may cause students to overlook or ignore these messages, and so alerts through multiple channels may be more effective (e.g., in class, through email, and on Blackboard).
DEDICATE CLASS TIME for Students to Complete Course Evaluations

For in-person and synchronous online courses, an effective method for encouraging participation in the evaluation process is to dedicate 15 minutes of time on one of the last instructional days. A good procedure is as follows: (1) explain the purpose of the evaluation, (2) explain how to access the evaluations, (3) explain to students when the class will resume, and (4) leave the room (or mute yourself and turn off your video for online classes). 

  • Recommendation: To be sure students are prepared to complete evaluations, invite students ahead of time to bring laptops, smartphones, or other electronic devices to class (particularly if they are generally not allowed in your classroom). It is not suggested that you “end the class early” for evaluations; dedicated class time is more effective. You can monitor completion rates of the course evaluations in real time (via Blue) and inform students of the completion rate (e.g., by popping back into class momentarily for a quick update).
Resources


OIEP SET Administration Schedule, Instructions on Customizing Questions, Supervisor Instructions for Customizing SET Dates, Blue Reports

OIEP FAQ for Instructors

OIEP FAQ for Students

For more information, please see the ETC’s History and Rationale of the Development of the 2022 SET Structure.