This morning I read, with some relief, a post over at Teaching Professor that echos some of my frustration with online teaching evaluations.
Since my current courses are taught mostly online, it makes sense to have students give me feedback online as well. Unfortunately, response rate is under 50% … and it seems to be the 50% who have “suggestions for improvement” who respond. The other half of the class presumably found the course acceptable to the point where they did not need to voice an opinion. But without data, one does not know what parts of the course should be retained as is, since they may have met the needs of the majority … or not.
I like the suggestion in the post that there should be some sort of incentive to complete these evaluations. They would, of course, need to be given by the system confidentially. But if it brings response rate up to something reasonable … such as the 80% cited in the study, I would think it worth the work. Otherwise, we may be basing promotion and retention decisions on inadequate data as well as asking teachers to “fix” course materials that really are not truly broken.