Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates

The following is a living list of approaches brainstormed by UW Environment faculty with especially high course evaluation response rates that course instructors can use to help increase student response rates.


  • Announce to the class 2-3 weeks in advance of when the evaluation opens to get it on their radar.
  • Make evaluations visible and accessible; add the link to evaluations to your syllabus, course website, etc.
  • When announcing evaluations, ask students if they intend to complete the evaluation (by show of hands); asking for a demonstration of intention has been shown to increase participation.
  • Open the evaluation early, ideally just prior to the last two weeks of the quarter.
  • Remind students continuously about the evaluation link.
  • Give students 15-20 minutes of dedicated class time for the evaluation, put that in the syllabus, and pre-warn them to “Bring your laptops and/or mobile devices!” to that class period.
  • Intentionally insert dedicated class time for the evaluation on a day with a popular topic or subject, so that class attendance is high.

Make the results meaningful

  • Customize the evaluation – create course-specific, and even individual lecture or activity-specific questions, in addition to the standard questions.
  • Tell the students that their comments are specifically helpful in guiding future offerings, and provide specific advice on helpful versus unhelpful language: “this assignment would have been more effective if it had included an opportunity for students to do the group work in class” versus “this assignment stinks.”
  • Take time to tell the students at the beginning of the course, and/or at each relevant point in the course, how the previous year’s evaluation was specifically used to change course material, activities or other pedagogical aspects.
  • Immediately prior to opening the on-line evaluation, tell the students how you plan to use their evaluation feedback to improve the next offering of the course.
  • Connect the evaluation directly to yourself: “These evaluations are important to my career as a faculty member/as a graduate student because part of my annual evaluation depends on my success as an instructor.”
  • Tell students who will review the evaluations, not just the instructor, but also the academic unit to help continuously improve the curriculum. Ask your unit to consider sending such a message from the unit chair/director directly to all students in the unit.
  • Tell students where to find the response data.
  • Remind students that course evaluation data is anonymous; instructors will not see it until after the quarterly grade submission deadline.

Incorporate assessment directly into the course

  • Create multiple on-line evaluations for yourself, even as frequently as every lecture. These can be simple tools that you use to evaluate whether/how to incorporate material in next year’s offering (i.e., keep, change, ditch, add). This exercise familiarizes students with evaluation and its uses; and the course evaluation is simply one more exercise.
  • Provide group-level, grade-based incentives.
    • Announce that if a threshold of students (e.g., 75%) complete the evaluation, then everyone will receive additional points (this strategy requires that you not grade on a curve).
    • Announce that if a threshold of students (e.g., 75%) have completed the evaluation by the time of the final, then there will be a bonus question on the final.

Expand the context

  • Make sure your TAs are also directly involved in soliciting student evaluations, for the course as a whole as well as for themselves, and are using the same approaches.