Student Course Survey Information for Academic Faculty

Note: Struck through text below is used to help emphasize which adjustments have been made to the SCS process in response to the pandemic.  

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. Here is a sample of the report faculty will receive once their grades are turned in at the end of the semester.

Administration procedures for faculty

Evaluations will open on Monday of the penultimate week of classes and close at the end of reading period (a 16-day window). Per faculty vote, the “default mode” of online 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.

In addition to this online evaluation, you are required to distribute blue comment forms (“blue sheets”) to students. About a month before the end of classes, you will receive a large blue envelope through campus mail, containing the blue sheets for your courses. Please check the contents of the envelope to ensure they have an adequate number of blue sheets.  Due to the pandemic, physical blue comment sheets will not be distributed. Instead, students will see a digital equivalent at the conclusion of the evaluations. Please contact the Provost’s or Dean of Faculty’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, allowing more time if you are administering blue sheets at the same time. You should leave the room while students are filling out evaluations.

Choose a student to take responsibility for distributing and collecting the blue sheets, then delivering them to the drop boxes located in the mailroom of the Paresky Center. Make note of the name of that student in order to assist the Provost’s Office, if necessary, in the recovery of missing forms.

Courses that can’t 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. Some instructors hand out individual blue sheets to students and ask them to each drop them in the Paresky drop box. If the online evaluation can’t be administered in class, to ensure high response rates, 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 and can turn in a blue sheet either to the Provost’s Office (M-F 8:30am-4pm) or the Paresky drop boxes.

Blue comment sheets

For the Fall 2020 term — Blue comment sheets are online. They appear as the very last question of the electronic SCS form (preview link above). 

While the online survey provides quantitative and qualitative feedback, the blue comment sheets are an opportunity for private qualitative feedback to the instructor. The sheets are solely for your benefit, and will likely not be seen by anyone else, although a limited number of staff have access to them in order to ensure proper collection and distribution. The blue comment sheets will be returned to you 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. However, please treat those custom comment sheets as if they were blue sheets, using the same blue envelopes and confidentiality-protecting procedures described above.  We recommend informing your students of any specific questions in advance of the SCS launch (November 30, 2020) 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 blue comment sheets are 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 system and view your SCS reports (instructions). These reports will present a summary of the statistical data derived from the SCS forms submitted for your course. You will receive your blue sheets, unopened, through campus mail. You will be able to access your blue sheet comments in the same place as your SCS reports, after grades have been turned in. Note that the procedure for accessing reports is the same it has been since 2014.

Chair Reports

If you are a department or program chair, once every member of your unit has turned in their grades, you should receive an email with all of the reports for your unit. 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. 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.