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Formative evaluations of teaching and courses

Harnessing early student feedback for improved teaching.

Here we remind teachers how early formative feedback can help improve teaching and the student experience. Formative evaluations are an informal way of checking how well your teaching is working and how to improve.

Below is a summary of the benefits of early feedback on your teaching. Make sure to also visit the central website on formative evaluations.

What is formative feedback and how can I get it?

Put simply, it is feedback that you design and own, based on your own needs and goals acquired through:

  • Students: surveys, quizzes, observations.
  • Peers: reviews, comments, discussions. See peer review of teaching.
  • Mentors: advice, guidance, support.
  • Yourself: self-reflections, portfolios, self-assessments.

To get effective formative feedback:

  • Start with simple and easy techniques.
  • Make small and sustainable changes.
  • Use multiple methods.
  • Be careful not to alter the original intention of the method.
  • Communicate with your students about the feedback and your actions.

Why and when?

An ideal time to introduce formative feedback is around the third week of the semester, to see if anything within your course needs adjusting. Keep gathering feedback throughout the course to monitor progress and adjust your actions.

It has many benefits for both you and your students. It can:

  • Enhance your teaching practice and student learning outcomes.
  • Build trust and rapport with your students.
  • Empower and engage our students by giving them voice.
  • Foster a culture of reflective practice and evaluation.
  • Show your commitment to teaching excellence and innovation.

Advance your career and gain recognition for your teaching.

How can I set up a survey for my students?

Create a short, anonymous survey, delivered online or in class, using Qualtrics. It is a powerful and easy-to-use tool that lets you design, distribute, and analyse your survey data.

What should I do with the feedback?

The most important thing to do is to act on it:

  • Summarise the feedback and identify the main themes and issues.
  • Plan how you will address them, set goals and actions.

Share the feedback and your actions with your students, show them that you value their input and that you are responsive to their needs.

It can also help you adapt

Formative feedback is also important for adapting to the rapidly changing teaching and learning landscape, as we unravel the potential of Gen-AI. This and other emerging technologies offer new possibilities and challenges for teaching and learning, related to personalisation, collaboration, analytics, and ethics, to name a few.

Keep up with these changes. Be flexible, creative, and innovative. That often involves experimenting with new pedagogies, methods, and tools; evaluating their effectiveness and impact; learn from one’s own and others’ experiences; share your insights and best practices; embrace the opportunities and risks that come with innovation; and seek support and feedback from your colleagues and students.

Formative feedback can be a powerful tool, so make the most of it!

See also

A bit more

Visit the central website for further guidance, including a comparison between formative evaluation and SET, the University’s Summative Evaluation Tool.


Use Qualtrics to conduct a formative evaluation survey.

Page added 22/02/2024

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