End-of-term student course evaluations are important for a range of reasons, but they only provide useful information if a significant number of students contribute responses. How can you ensure a high rate of return from your students?

Theresa Tinkle, Associate Chair of the U-M English department, recently gathered data from her colleagues that helps answer that question. She polled instructors in her department who regularly get a response rate of at least 80 percent on standardized student ratings to find out what their secrets might be. As it turns out, there's not much of a secret. The best practices she's compiled are relatively simple:

  1. Telling students their feedback is important and can help improve the course in the future.
  2. Asking students to bring laptops to class and saving 15 minutes on the final day of class for them to fill out the ratings.
  3. During the evaluation period, checking the 'dashboard' on CTools to find out how many students have completed the ratings form—and then letting the students know what percentage still need to reply. A simple in-class announcement or email reminder encouraging more students to participate can go a long way. (For guidance about using CTools to collect course evaluations, see this link).

In short, if you let students know that you value their feedback and provide easy ways for them to complete course evaluations, they're very likely to respond. 

For additional ideas and information about student course evaluations, check out our resources on this page


Our thoughts and best wishes go out to everyone affected by the tragic events at the Boston Marathon. We are aware that particular teaching challenges can arise in the wake of such shared trauma, and our website includes resources that were developed by CRLT to support instructors facing such challenges. You can click here to find a range of guidelines for discussing difficult topics with students. Especially relevant items include the guidelines for teaching in the aftermath of the September 11th tragedies. Key suggestions on that page for productively discussing such events include:

  • Consider supportive ways to open and close such a discussion
  • Create a framework for the discussion, using specific questions to guide student contributions
  • Allow everyone a chance to talk, but don't force students to participate
  • Where possible, explore links to the content of your course or discipline

Other helpful resources in the wake of the Boston events include this article on student perceptions of more and less helpful faculty responses to public violence and tragedy. The authors, Therese A. Huston and Michele DiPietro, discuss their findings that even a simple, brief recognition of the occurrence--and an acknowledgment that students may be experiencing distress--can make a big difference. Students appreciate their teachers' acknowledging public tragedies, even in courses where the material does not seem relevant to the events. 

As always, CRLT consultants are also available to consult with individual instructors about effective ways to respond to such events. In the face of such shocking violence, we at CRLT feel fortunate to witness the tremendous good accomplished by U-M teachers every day.  Read more »


In this post, guest blogger Joe Howard, a Ph.D. student in the School of Education’s higher education (CSHPE) program, discusses CRLT’s study of LSA’s Quantitative Reasoning (QR) requirement–-and the implications of that research for instructors at U-M. 

Whether mathematically inclined or not, today’s college graduates will be expected to “navigate a sea of numbers on a daily basis” in their careers and daily lives (Grawe, 2012, p. 30).  A majority of employers interviewed in a recent study noted that they want universities to enhance their quantitative reasoning (QR) skills, or students' ability to work with numbers and understand statistics (Hart Research Associates, 2009). These include: Read more »


If you are interested in adding to your technology toolkit or learning about great uses of technology in teaching at U-M, you have over 130 sessions to choose from at Enriching Scholarship during the week of May 6-10. Enriching Scholarship is an annual event that takes place across U-M's campus: a week of workshops, presentations, panels, and discussions on a wide range of technology topics sponsored by the Teaching and Technology Collaborative

Registration is open to all U-M students, staff, and faculty, but many events will be of particular interest to teachers. The week starts off with a teaching focus at the keynote event, featuring a poster fair and panel. From 9-10am on Monday morning, winners of the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize and recipients of the Investigating Student Learning grant will present their innovative teaching projects. A continental breakfast will be served. After the poster fair, a panel of U-M faculty who have taught Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will address the question, "What have we learned from MOOCs?" They'll share their experience teaching thousands of students from around the world in the Coursera platform, and reflect on how those experiences can inform face-to-face teaching.  Read more »


Can technology help student teams improve their group process—and ultimately their learning? CRLT's recent Occasional Paper on "Teaching in the Cloud" explains some ways it can. In particular, the paper highlights how Online Collaboration Tools (OCTs) can enhance students' ability to collaborate effectively. OCTs can facilitate group members' access to one another and the team's efficiency by reducing spatial and temporal barriers. OCTs can also provide novel, efficient, and effective means for instructors to monitor and provide feedback on group projects.  

The paper features two U-M faculty members who successfully utilize OCTs to improve student teamwork as well as instructor management of group projects. 

  • Robin Fowler of Technical Communication and Engineering: Fowler has improved student teamwork in Introduction to Engineering by shifting from face-to-face team meetings to synchronous, text-based online discussions. Her students share and assess design plans using Google Docs, a system that has increased student engagement and participation in group decision-making. Click here to learn more and watch a short video of Fowler discussing this teaching strategy and some of its outcomes.
  • Melissa Gross of Kinesiology: Gross's studio course uses 3D animation and motion capture technologies to study the biomechanics of human movement. Students' group presentations include such animations to illustrate their research findings, and these require sharing and collaborating on many large video files. Gross uses Box.net, a cloud-based storage and sharing service, to solve storage and capacity challenges and facilitate student management and coordination of their teamwork. Click here to learn more and watch a short video of Gross discussing this teaching strategy. 

For additional resources about using student teams effectively in a range of course settings, see this section of our website and this recent CRLT Occasional Paper