Student feedback data should be more explicit

A student argues Data for Students should be more specific so students can use it as a guide.

With Spring 2021 priority registration starting Nov. 16, students will be asking themselves what professors and classes to take while building their schedules. One resource is overlooked and underutilized in making these choices: Student Feedback Forms data. 

The forms are questionnaires that students fill out at the end of their courses. This semester, the university implemented a new form and system, developed by the joint faculty and staff Assessment of Instruction Committee, Temple University’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment and Information Technology Services. 

The enhanced version has eight university-level items: five response-scales and three open-ended questions.

While these changes are definitely a step in the right direction, and I commend the administration for listening to criticism, there is still room for improvement in the areas of student access to data and low student response rates.

The previous questionnaire was vague and subjective, asking students to rate their teacher’s performance by agreeing or disagreeing with statements like “I learned a great deal.”

It also lacked customization: an Arabic language course and a biology course differ wildly in objectives and content. Yet, a student could respond to the same set of questions for both.

Luckily, professors will be able to ask questions from a bank of 200 possibilities, and honors, online-only, general education and writing intensive courses will have questions designated for them, said Gina Calzaferri, director of assessment and evaluation for the office.

“One of the biggest pieces was to acknowledge the diversity of our academic programs across the university,” Calzaferri added. “We have 17 schools and colleges, and we pretty much had the standard form with just slight variations, but it didn’t really capture the needs for all the schools and colleges with regards to being able to better understand their courses and content areas.”

Temple will also be updating the SFF Data for Students, a dashboard where students can see data from previous semesters if they have completed their SFF. The new forms bring about much needed personalization, but the data should reflect what we inputted.

Rather than showing the results of multiple choice and open-ended questions, students can only see a bar graph for quality of teaching, grading, feedback and learning on a three-point scale. 

Students should be able to view the same information they meticulously put in, not an arbitrary interpretation of it.  

Students would be more inclined to use SFF Data for Students as an aid in course selection and complete their questionnaires in order to access it.

For example, it would be more effective for students to view peer comments than just charts and graphs.

Despite Temple having a system for evaluation, some students rely on other sources for selecting courses, said Emma Walinsky, a junior public health major.  

“I have found that websites like or just simply talking to my peers are much more beneficial when it comes to learning about a course format or how a certain professor teaches,” Walinsky added.

The student response rate is typically only 55 to 60 percent, and it was even lower last semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic moving all classes online, Calzaferri wrote in an email to The Temple News. Students should take the time to fill out these feedback forms because they affect the overall quality of the courses at Temple, she added. 

“It gives students a voice to tell us what they think about their courses,” Calzaferri said. “So the feedback from Student Feedback Forms is important for instructors so they can make changes on what they’re doing.”

SFFs can help other students succeed in a course, said Kayla Myers, a senior exercise and sport science major.  

“I’ve had professors in the past who genuinely do take information they learned from those forms and apply it to the next semester,” Myers said.

Students should thoughtfully fill out feedback forms, but the university should put the same effort into making SFF Data for Students less abstract.

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