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Constructive feedback

If students provide feedback on the seminars, courses or lectures they attended, it also helps those behind the lectern. With the aim of continuously improving the teaching at Kiel University, a service for course evaluation will be available from this winter semester onwards.

Lecturer in lecture hall
© Jürgen Haacks, Uni Kiel

A full auditorium does not necessarily mean that the lecture is interesting and understandable. With the new evaluation procedure, students can give meaningful feedback on the course.

The evaluation or assessment of courses has already been firmly established in the semester programme. "However, there were no uniform results which we could utilise in continuing development to specifically support lecturers," explains Dr Kristina Fraune of the Continuing Professional Development Centre. This should change with the new system.

The core is a modular-based system, which can be used regardless of the type of course and the subject involved. The basic questionnaire consists of 15 statements that are evaluated on a multi-tiered scale from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree". It also provides the opportunity to freely describe the strengths and weaknesses of the course. "The questions are based on the latest findings from educational research, which make statements about the factors that are relevant for successful teaching," says Fraune, who has played a major role in introducing the new course evaluation. In addition, subject-specific or individually relevant questions can be added, such as when a new teaching concept is tried and feedback on it is desired.

The questionnaire design has been supported extensively by a scientific advisory board. "There were comprehensive literature reviews and accompanying scientific projects, in which the criteria emerged that are relevant for good teaching. The lecturers also provided information about what feedback is important from their point of view," reports Maike Wolgast from Quality Management. "We decided to carry out accompanying scientific work, in order to obtain a well-founded questionnaire. This means we can properly explain why we ask these questions and not others," say Fraune and Wolgast, as experts for course evaluation.

Fraune uses an example to illustrate why it's so important to ask the right questions: "If I ask participants how satisfied they were with the course, and two say 'satisfied', then perhaps one person means the atmosphere in the course, and the other the way the lecturer prepared the contents." In order to ensure that the meaning of the question is clear, the corresponding criteria are included. Because the lower the uncertainty, the better the results can be used.

The basic questionnaire contains seven criteria that are important for good teaching. These are: organisation and structure, clarity and easy to understand, load and requirements, interest and motivation, cognitive activation, conceptual understanding as well as support and feedback. Two statements should be evaluated for each of these points. The criterion of "interest and motivation", for example, is evaluated based on the statements "the teacher makes the course interesting" and "stimulates my interest in the learning contents".

This results in very specific evaluations, which enable meaningful feedback on effectiveness. Lecturers can draw on this, to identify topics for which they want to make use of the Continuing Professional Development Centre offers. Fraune says "The feedback can be an opportunity to stimulate conversation about which things are worth reconsidering. Because ultimately, both sides have an interest in using the time spent together as efficiently as possible. And this should help in that regard." Therefore, the survey should also not only be carried out on the last day of the course, but at the beginning of the last third. This gives lecturers the opportunity to adapt.

Author: Kerstin Nees

System for constructive feedback

The redesign of the course evaluation is a cooperative project between the Continuing Professional Development Centre and Kiel University’s Quality Management, under the supervision of a scientific advisory board. The CAU is therefore pursuing the goal of using systematic course evaluation better and in a more targeted manner for didactic support for teaching. Uniform questions, methods and processes facilitate tailor-made continuing education opportunities for teachers.

Students are surveyed online and the results processed electronically. The respective lecturers immediately receive feedback on how many students completed the questionnaire, how they responded on average, and where the maximum values lie. In addition, the report contains the open answers submitted by respondents, and where appropriate, a recommendation for the area in which a continuing education seminar could be useful.

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