University of Wisconsin–Madison

2016 Winter Retreat Focuses on Course Evaluation

Discussing the effectiveness of course evaluations

An immense thank you to everyone who attended, supported, and participated in this year’s UW Teaching Academy Winter Retreat!

The 2016 Winter Retreat focused on the topics of course and teacher evaluation on the UW–Madison campus. With more than 100 faculty and staff in attendance,
the event highlighted ongoing evaluation initiatives and new ideas.

The event kicked off with a welcome from Associate Vice Provost, Mo Bischof, who provided an update on the university’s current efforts to provide a campus-wide solution to support course/program assessment needs including online course evaluations. View the slides from her presentation here.

UWTA 2016 co-chair David Baum

To fuel discussion on alternative course evaluation strategies, UW-Teaching Academy co-chair David Baum gave a talk on the UW- Teaching Academy Whitepaper,
Supplemental, ELO-based Campus-wide Course Evaluations.” Attendees were provided a brief one-page overview of the white paper and David discussed the benefits of providing comparable data across all courses and the importance of shifting focus from students evaluating instructors to evaluating what they learned in a course. Key features of the proposed mechanism include the following:

  1. On-line Likert scale with perhaps seven questions per course.
  2. Conducted each semester for all courses by all students.
  3. Summary data (from course exceeding a minimum size) made available to students. Perhaps access to data will be restricted to those completing the survey (or some other way to encourage participation).
  4. There would be no expectation that courses excel in all ELOs, just that they contribute substantially to at least one ELO and/or are judged to have, overall, a positive educational impact.

Slides from David’s presentation are available here. The UW Teaching Academy requests your feedback on the white paper. Please send an email to by February 15 with any suggestions or ideas from the typographical to the philosophical.

The event also invited a panel to discuss other aspects of course and instructor evaluation. Panelists included:

Sonya Sedivy, an Associate Scientist at Testing and Evaluation Services, has done extensive research on survey design, offered her services to instructors and departments trying to create more effective instruments for evaluation.

John Stevenson, the Associate Director of the UW-Madison Survey Center, is an expert on survey design and methods for increasing response rates. John spoke with a sense of humor about the common questions raised by surveys – even if there is a high response rate, what does the data actually tell us?

panelAlan Rubel, whose achievement of tenure was announced later that day, is an Assistant Professor in the School of Library & Information Studies (SLIS) and in the Legal Studies Program. One of Alan’s research areas is the nature and value of privacy. View a preprint of a paper Alan authored with Kyle Jones, a SLIS instructor and recent PhD, “Student Privacy in Learning Analytics: An Information Ethics Perspective”

April Bleske-Rechek traveled from UW-Eau Claire to be part of the panel. Citing her research, she spoke about getting over the snarkiness that can be found in RateMyProfessors reviews, and looking for student consensus and useful data in reviews. See more about April’s work on RateMyProfessors.

In the spirit of evaluation, we would love to hear how we can revamp and improve our events in the future! Please fill out the following evaluation to help us in this process.

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