As we approach the end of the term, students will be asked to provide feedback to instructors using U-M's course evaluation system. At CRLT, we often hear from faculty and GSIs who are discouraged about a number of issues related to student ratings, including the tone of some written comments, relatively low response rates, and uncertainty about how best to use the results productively. This post provides some resources for each of these concerns.

1) Minimizing Unhelpful Comments: Student ratings comments can be unhelpful when vague or irrelevant, whether positive ("Great course!") or negative (e.g., criticism of instructor attributes not linked to the learning environment). To encourage students to avoid rude or personally hurtful comments, CRLT worked closely with ADVANCE at U-M on a handout that instructors can give to students before they fill out their evaluations. The handout, Course Evaluations: Providing Helpful Feedback to Your Instructors, asks students to keep three key issues in mind when completing their ratings:

Peer review is an essential aspect of teaching evaluation, both for improvement and for personnel decisions, for several reasons. First, faculty are in a unique position to evaluate and provide feedback on aspects of their colleagues’ teaching that are beyond the expertise of students. These include the instructor’s knowledge of the field, how up to date the course materials are, the appropriate level of rigor, and contributions to course and curriculum development. In addition, as experienced teachers themselves, faculty can offer colleagues important perspectives to inform efforts to improve teaching, from discussions of course materials to debriefs of classroom observations. Finally, peer review – when done well – can lead to a number of benefits for the departmental and campus culture of teaching. These include the creation of a more robust conversation about criteria for excellent teaching, greater sharing of successes and challenges among colleagues, and an increased profile for teaching as an important part of the intellectual life of faculty and graduate students. The following resources offer guidance on various aspects of peer review. CRLT consultants are also available to consult with faculty committees, chairs, or associate deans who wish to set up or revise their strategies for peer review of teaching. To set up an appointment, complete our consultation request form. Read more »


Student ratings of instruction (also known as student evaluations of teaching or course evaluations) are the most commonly used method for evaluating and getting feedback on teaching, as well as one of the most studied topics in higher education. Despite their ubiquity, misperceptions about ratings and problematic use of their results are common in the academy. This page provides resources specific to U-M’s online ratings system, overviews of the research on this topic, and suggestions for using student ratings results effectively, both for improvement and evaluation. To set up an appointment with a CRLT consultant to discuss results of your student ratings, complete our consultation request form.

While research indicates that ratings do provide one useful source of data about teaching quality, there is also widespread agreement that they should never be used in isolation. CRLT’s page on the evaluation of teaching offers an overview of best practices for teaching evaluation, as well as information about other sources of data, such as peer review. Read more »


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As memories of Spring Break fade and we head into the final stretch of winter term, it's a great time to think about student motivation. How effectively are your courses engaging your students and motivating them to learn? 

While it can sometimes feel that students simply choose to be engaged or apathetic for their own reasons, the research on motivation clearly indicates that instructor choices significantly affect students' investment in learning. And motivation plays a key role in how effectively students master course material. As Susan Ambrose and her co-authors argue in How Learning Works (Jossey-Bass, 2010), research shows that people are motivated to learn when they:

  1. See the value, either intrinsic or extrinsic, of learning the particular material or skills, and
  2. Believe they can succeed.

What teaching strategies do these motivational factors suggest? To help students appreciate the value of the learning goals in your course, you can: Read more »