The Student Course Survey
The Student Course Survey (SCS) is a faculty-developed evaluation that students complete at the end of each semester. Faculty voted to adopt it in November 1972, and another faculty vote in April 1988 made it mandatory. The survey and its report have undergone several revisions since then. Most recently, faculty voted to adopt a shorter survey form with both numeric questions and text boxes, to be administered online, beginning with Fall 2019. There are currently three primary sections to the SCS. The first two consist of seven core numeric questions, and one evaluative text box where responses are shared with the faculty member and appropriate evaluation committees. The final section is a private text box (formerly known as “blue sheets”) where the student response is written solely to and for the individual faculty member alone.
Academic units may add up to two additional questions to the evaluation form. The wording of, labels for, and rationale behind additional questions must be included in the unit’s Evaluation Guidelines, for consideration and approval by the CAP. Results from these additional questions are distributed to the same audiences as other results.
Administration procedures for faculty
Evaluations will open on Monday of the penultimate week of classes and close at the end of reading period (usually a 16-day window). Per faculty vote, the “default mode” of SCS administration is in-class. Please make every effort to remind your students to bring a device on which to complete the form. Students who don’t complete their evaluations in class will receive reminders during reading period, encouraging them to fill out their remaining evaluations. Students will have access to their evaluations throughout the evaluation period and could potentially fill them out before the allotted class time. If this is of concern, you may make an announcement beforehand, asking students to wait until the chosen class time to complete that evaluation.
Please contact the Dean of Faculty’s Office, or Provost’s Office if you have any questions or problems.
The SCS should be administered in a neutral setting, e.g. in a classroom or lab; not during an end-of-term special event or social gathering. On the chosen evaluation day, we strongly discourage handing out food or doing anything else that could be construed as an attempt to influence the results. You should reserve about ten to fifteen minutes for students to complete evaluations. You should leave the room (virtual or otherwise) while students are filling out evaluations.
Courses that cannot administer the SCS in class
Some courses, such as tutorials, don’t hold regular meetings where all students are present. In such cases, you may use discretion in deciding how best to administer forms. If the online evaluation can’t be administered in class we encourage you to proactively reach out to students about completing evaluations, both in person and through email and other channels.
Students who miss class
Students who miss class on the day evaluations are administered can still go online to fill out the survey. They must complete evaluations before they close on the first day of finals.
Blue comment sheets (private feedback)
The first two sections of the survey provide quantitative (numeric) and qualitative (written) feedback. These sections are for your benefit, and their results are shared with relevant evaluation committees. Results from the private feedback section (formerly known as a “blue sheet”) are not shared.
The final section is a text box that offers an opportunity for private qualitative feedback to the instructor. This is solely for your (the individual instructor’s) benefit and will not be shared with others, outside of a very limited number of staff who need access to ensure proper collection and distribution. These private comments are made available in PeopleSoft after your grades have been submitted to, and posted by, the Registrar’s Office.
If you would like to ask students to respond to specific open-ended questions that you devise, whether in addition to or in place of the traditional blue sheets, you may do so. We recommend informing your students of any specific questions in advance of the SCS launch and clearly explaining they should respond on the final page of the SCS, the page that appears after they have been told they successfully completed the evaluative portion of the SCS.
How evaluation results are used
The Fall 2019 SCS redesign was undertaken, in part, to provide instructors with feedback that better serves their efforts to improve teaching. As previously mentioned, the private feedback (formerly known as “blue comment sheet”) is only seen by the instructor. The reports from the online evaluation are distributed to the individual being evaluated, their unit chair(s), and any relevant evaluation committees. These summary results are also made available to the Dean of the Faculty and to members of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP), when appropriate. The results are considered in annual reviews and decisions about reappointment, tenure, and promotion.
All departments and programs are required to use three different methods to evaluate the teaching of untenured faculty members. The SCS is only one of these methods, and is always considered as just one part of the picture. Promotion and tenure decisions are based on consideration of all three evaluation methods, as well as the faculty member’s research and service.
It is important to remember that surveys are crude instruments in general, and that they are best at identifying outliers. Great care should be taken not to give too much weight to small fluctuations across terms or between courses. Variation is natural, and to be expected, particularly when classes sizes are small or response rates are low.
Institutional Research is one resource for guidance in interpreting the reports. While our staff administers the evaluations, we play no part in the evaluation process, and are available for confidential consultation if you have questions about interpreting your reports. If you have questions about how the reports will be used by others, we encourage you to contact your unit chair or the Dean of Faculty’s office.
Accessing your reports
Evaluations close at the end of reading period and we then need several days to process the results and create reports. In a typical semester, reports will be ready before grades are due. Once reports are ready and the Registrar’s office has received and posted your grades, you will be able to log into the Williams Student Records PeopleSoft system and view your SCS reports (instructions).
There are two reports for each course evaluated. The first presents a summary of the statistical data derived from the SCS forms submitted for your course, as well as any written feedback captured in the second section of the SCS — the section directed to both you and any relevant evaluation committee. The second report located contains the private feedback directed to, and for, you alone. Both reports are located in the same place; please follow the instructions linked above, or contact Institutional Research for help
Here is a sample of the report faculty will be able to access once their grades are turned in at the end of the semester.
If you are a department or program chair, once every member of your unit has turned in their grades, you should receive an email notification with a link to a shared SCS-GoogleDrive for your academic unit. This folder is also shared with the Dean of Faculty’s Office by default. These reports are generated based on faculty FTE allocation, which does not always align with course subject. Please note that this can take weeks, depending on when all the grades are turned in. If you feel you’re missing a set of reports, please let us know.
Access to Past SCS Reports
You can view your own SCS reports going back to Spring 2007 in the Williams Student Records system. See here for instructions. You can also see your private feedback (“blue sheets”) reports going back to Spring 2020. If you need copies of someone else’s reports, please contact the Dean of Faculty’s Office. Be advised that requests for an individual’s SCS reports to be sent to someone else must come either from that individual or from their department or program chair.