No matter how enjoyable a class might be, most students are ready to dash when it's over. We all have full lives. Nobody wants to stick around and fill out a lengthy evaluation.
If you truly want feedback from your students, design an evaluation that is short and concise, one that gives you the most important information.
Notice I said short. Keep your evaluation to five questions and you'll be more likely to see more students complete it. You might also consider giving students time to complete the survey before class is actually over. Hand out evaluations five minutes before your last break. Once they fill it out, they're free to go on break.
Remember to create a feeling of anonymity in the room by designating a spot away from your desk where students can leave their surveys upside down. And never ask for a name.
Perhaps the most important factor in our happiness with anything at all is whether or not our expectations were met. That's a pretty big statement, but think about it.
When something is not what we expect, it's pretty hard to be excited about the outcome, unless the class, the event, the vacation, the relationship, (you fill in the blank), surpasses our expectations, which sometimes, thankfully!, happens.
It's just that it doesn't happen all that often in the classroom. You can change that by continually improving your class based on specific feedback from students who actually fill out your evaluation, including whether or not their expectations were met.
This can be as simple as asking: Were your expectations of this class met?
We all know that open-ended questions are better: Which of your expectations of this class were met? Which ones were not met?
If you prefer, you can make this question more specific, including whether or not the time commitment involved was as expected.
Whether or not you are prepared becomes apparent pretty quickly to the students in your classroom. We can't all be the most riveting of speakers, but we can be as ready and professional as possible.
Ask what your students think of your level of knowledge, professionalism, delivery, materials, availability outside of class, and your ability to inspire participation.
That's a lot of information to expect quickly, so choose one or two aspects of your teaching that are most important to you if you're asking for comments. If you want info on lots of aspects, consider asking students to rank each aspect from 1 to 5.
A quick note here on receiving personal feedback. Remember that feedback is a gift. Wayne Dyer tells the story of an enlightened master who teaches, "If someone offers you a gift, and you do not accept that gift, to whom does the gift belong?"
When someone offers you a negative gift, you can choose to accept it or dismiss it. My personal advice is to try not to respond to it at all for a few days. Let yourself get past the emotion involved and then decide whether or not the feedback has any truth.
Was the class helpful? What did your students learn?
This question can seem daunting at first, and you don't want to give your students the impression that you're expecting a thesis here. A few bullets will be sufficient. Guide them by printing 3-5 bullets beneath the question, or leave just a few inches.
What do your students recommend for improving the class? What had they hoped to learn that they didn't?
If you have fostered a safe environment and your students feel they can be honest with you, this can be one of the most powerful parts of your evaluation. This is where you'll get information about how to better shape your class.
Thumbs Up or Down
Would you recommend this class to a friend?
This is another question that isn't open ended, but it's also very powerful. A simple thumbs up or thumbs down tells you volumes with a flick of the wrist. The quickness of this final evaluation question allows you to elaborate a little more on some of the other questions, particularly the part on teacher effectiveness.