Guide to formative evaluation

Formative feedback on your teaching, also known as formative evaluation, is informal evaluation during a course that is designed to enhance or develop your teaching.

What is formative feedback/evaluation?

Formative feedback/evaluation enables you to check how well your teaching is contributing to student learning.   There is no one way to get feedback on your teaching – it is your choice what you focus on and how you find out about it.

Keep these points in mind:

  • Start with techniques that are quick and easy to use
  • Implement incremental and sustainable changes
  • Use more than one technique to reach a broader range of students
  • Make sure that if you adapt a technique, that doing so doesn't undermine its original purpose
  • Let your students know what you have learned from their feedback and what you might change as a result (‘close the loop’).  

Why should I do it?

Getting formative feedback on your teaching has enormous benefits for your teaching practice and for your students’ learning. It is designed and owned by you, so it can be flexible and answer to your needs. It can reveal much about your teaching that summative feedback cannot and that, if addressed, can have a real impact on student learning.

Students are likely to believe that teachers who use formative evaluation are committed to improving their teaching and achieving good outcomes for students. Also, involving students in evaluation can model reflective practice and signal the importance of evaluation as a skill, and may contribute to better response rates in summative evaluations (e.g. SET).

The University values and recognises excellent teachers through career advancement and teaching awards. Practising formative evaluation can demonstrate that you are always looking to enhance and develop your teaching. 

When should I do it?

Formative evaluation is gathered during a course, ideally from as early as the third week of teaching (but before the tenth week) to enable you to incorporate the feedback directly into the course. It should be an ongoing process, building at each step on what you have learned to enhance and/or develop your teaching.

What should I do with the feedback?

The most important thing to do with formative evaluation is to summarise the feedback and explain how you will respond to it. Students appreciate their feedback being taken seriously.

Keep a record of your response as evidence of your reflective practice – it will prove valuable as you develop your formative evaluation practice and when you want to provide evidence of your teaching effectiveness.

What is the difference between formative evaluations and SET?

  Formative evaluation SET
How do I get an evaluation done? You may use many methods to evaluate your course formatively.

Evaluations are centrally generated.

Courses are evaluated once each time they are taught.

When is it done? Formative evaluation should be undertaken between weeks 3 and 10 of the semester, and can be done more than once per term. Week 11-12 of semester, for most courses
Who is responsible?

Individual teachers may select the formative evaluation method appropriate for their teaching practice.

Faculties are responsible for any Qualtrics surveying organised at the faculty level.

The Academic Quality Office working with faculties.
Is it part of University reporting? No. Yes
Who can be evaluated? Any teacher, including contract for service teaching staff, tutors, GTAs or demonstrators. Teaching staff with a significant teaching role, as defined by SET.
Can it be used for promotion or continuation purposes? Formative evaluation information may be supplied along with SET data to provide a complete picture for promotion and continuation purposes. Evidence from SET, as the formal University evaluation system, is required for promotion and continuation purposes.

For assistance with formative evaluation or peer review of teaching contact: Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education (CLeaR)