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Assessment Strategies

Using Course Evaluations as a Teaching Self-Assessment Exercise

November 25, 2019
Dan Hubert

End of semester, summative course evaluations are a commonly expected event that provide students the opportunity to rate an instructor’s teaching effectiveness as well as the course’s impact on their own learning and success. At Notre Dame these are called Course Instructor Feedback (CIF) forms. Typically, these evaluations are used as part of formal promotion and tenure reviews by departments, or as job application documents, rather than as tools for self-improvement. Even though there may be occasional, unanticipated lower scores on some survey items, or even some negative comments to balance the positive remarks, this anonymous student feedback instrument can be an equally effective tool for teaching self-reflection, self-assessment and course improvement. Additionally, for those interested in using their survey scores more formally in the pursuit of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) involvement, MacMillan, et al (2011) suggests that teaching evaluations could even be a source of useful data for the SoTL cycle of inquiry. No matter the scores received, or even their intended use, analyzing some or all survey items for specific course or teaching improvement can be valuable. This targeted self-reflection may uncover opportunities revealed by more than the mean scores alone.

Most instructors likely already do some formative or summative self-reflection or self-assessment. And in general, this can identify areas for improving one’s teaching – especially in areas less visible to students but still essential to the course. Perhaps consider self-administering a general teaching inventory to assess the methods you use and get new ideas for future classes. Instructors could also periodically choose to reflect on their course(s) through the lens of the CIF, providing a parallel view of your course from the instructor perspective. Below are a few CIF-based items for instructor self-assessment, with accompanying self-reflection questions to assist in thinking more deeply about a just completed course.

Examples of CIF-Based, Instructor Self-Feedback Items

  • Overall I organized the course to meet the needs of my students. (CIF item: Overall organization of the course)
    • What data or feedback did you receive this semester to indicate that their needs were/were not met? Did you get an inordinate number of questions about a particular topic that you thought you had appropriately prepared for?
  • I was available and provided appropriate help or learning resources outside of class. (CIF item: Availability of appropriate help or learning resources outside class)
    • Did you schedule office hours for students to meet their schedules or yours? Were you hours well attended? Did you use the library reserve service for additional materials? Did you have additional, explanatory materials in Sakai? 
  • I required assignments (readings, projects, etc.) that were helpful in facilitating student  learning. (CIF item: Helpfulness of required assignments (readings, projects, etc.) in facilitating my learning). 
    • What indicators were you looking for to indicate this helpfulness? What parameters did you use to select these? What other materials did students use to supplement yours? What individual requirements could be improved upon?
  • I provided useful feedback to my students concerning their work in the course. (CIF item: Usefulness of the feedback I received concerning my work in the course)
    • What confirmed feedback was useful? Were student products reflective of feedback following directions from you (either written or verbal)? Did you ask students anonymously where your feedback could be improved?
  • I communicated clearly to students in class and in my materials. (CIF item: Instructor’s clarity of communication)
    • Did you note when students indicated they were unsure about something you communicated? Were students confused by assignment directions? Did students want to discuss their grade on a more subjective assignment or assessment?
  • I was fair and impartial in conducting my class. (CIF item: Instructor’s fairness and impartiality in conducting the class)
    • Were all students treated and graded without bias? Did your learning preference impact or influence the learning environment or engagement of your students? Did you gravitate toward students who appear to mirror your, personality, learning style or disciplinary focus? 
  • I equally helped all students develop mastery of the course material. (CIF item: Instructor’s effort to help students develop mastery of the course material)
    • Were you equally available to all students to help them? Did your office hours work for everyone? Was your learning environment inclusive for all students? 

While this is just a sampling of CIF-based survey items that are instructor facing, these example items provide ideas on how reflecting on the CIF can help you improve your teaching, perhaps leading to both greater student success and higher CIF scores in the future.  


MacMillan, M.,  Manarin, K., and Mitchell, M. (November 2011). In Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal Volume 5 Issue 2. Retrieved from:

Prosser, M. and Trigwell, K. Educational Psychology Review, Vol. 16, No. 4, Measuring Studying and Learning in Higher Education—Conceptual and Methodological Issues (2004), pp. 409-424. Retrieved from: