Tools - Surveys
Surveys, which include course evaluations and opinion surveys, at best reflect only indirectly on whether students have achieved the learning goals set for them, or on whether our departments are achieving goals we have set for our activities. Surveys should be used judiciously, as there are often ways to assess more directly the extent to which an activity is reaching its objectives.
Swarthmore's Institutional Effectiveness, Research & Assessment office provides information about conducting survey research. The office also supports academic departments and programs undergoing reviews. Examples of past departmental and program alumni surveys are available to members of the Swarthmore community.
Here are a few other resources related to survey research
- Best Practices for Survey and Public Opinion Research from the American Association for Public Opinion Research
- HyperStat Online — This is a handy online statistics textbook by David Lane, Associate Professor of Psychology, Statistics, and Management at Rice University.
Course evaluations are a special kind of survey which generally provide only indirect measures to reflect whether students have achieved the learning goals for the course. Satisfaction with aspects of the course may be important to include as well, but they are less helpful as evidence of student learning. For course evaluations to be most valuable as an assessment tool, it is helpful to include questions that focus on behaviors and learning gains that are closely tied to course goals.