The Course Comments Questionnaire (CCQ) is the standard course evaluation at UW-Green Bay; faculty members have used the seven-question survey to evaluate their courses for more than 20 years. While some campus units have adopted other means of evaluating their courses (e.g., Humanistic Studies, English Composition, and Social Change & Development use other evaluation tools), the CCQ remains the predominant measure of course quality at UW-Green Bay.
A considerable amount of research has been conducted investigating the reliability and validity of student course evaluations. Although the research is largely supportive of student evaluations, they do have limitations. The most important thing to keep in mind when reviewing these ratings is that they do not provide a direct measure of student learning. Although research shows a modest relationship (correlations in the low to mid 40s) between achievement and student ratings, one cannot conclude that a course with low ratings means that students did not benefit intellectually and academically from the course.
In addition, it is important to consider that two course characteristics, class size and academic field have been shown to influence ratings. Small discussion classes (35 or fewer students) often receive higher ratings than larger lecture classes. The academic field of a course can also influence ratings. Humanities and fine arts classes generally receive the highest ratings followed by courses in the social sciences. Courses in mathematics, accounting, statistics, and the natural sciences generally receive the lowest ratings.
Finally, although, individually, course characteristics seldom have a practically significant influence on student ratings, a combination of class size and academic field along with other factors (e.g., an instructor teaches a course for the first time; major changes are made in the way a course is taught) can significantly raise or lower student ratings of a particular course. With this in mind, it is very important that ratings from a number of different courses taught by the same faculty member be reviewed to reduce the likelihood of bias for or against an instructor. In addition to this call for ratings across multiple courses, faculty members should also consider gathering information from multiple sources (i.e., different types of student ratings plus ratings from different sources, such as peers).
Research suggests that students judge courses along several different dimensions. In general, students do not rate courses along only a single good-bad dimension. Studies at a variety of universities, including UW-Green Bay, have identified some important dimensions that students consider when rating courses. The Course Comments Questionnaire (CCQ) was constructed to cover seven relatively independent dimensions.
The nature of the CCQ’s seven dimensions, and the items included within each, are described below. Students assess each dimension on a 10-point, behaviorally-anchored scale.
1. Organization. This scale deals with matters of the instructor’s organization, preparation and clarity of procedures as perceived by students. Students are asked, "Considering how material was presented in class, integration of class material with assignments and exams, clarity of course objectives and procedures, how would you rate the course's organization?" The low end of the scale (1) is anchored with "Poor" and the high end of the scale (10) is anchored with "Excellent."
2. General Intellectual Development. This scale deals with development of cognitive abilities that are not tied directly to the content of the course. Students are asked, "Quite apart from specific course content, how much did the course contribute to your general intellectual development, e.g., ability to reason, knowledge of other fields, thinking creatively, etc.?" The low end of the scale (1) is anchored with "Very Little" and the high end of the scale (10) is anchored with "Very Much."
3. Instructor-Student Relationship. This scale deals with the relationship between the instructor and students. Another name for the scale might be “rapport.” Students are asked, "Considering such factors as helpfulness to students, sensitivity to students' feelings, acceptance of questions and different views, how would you rate the instructor's relationship with students?" The low end of the scale (1) is anchored with "Poor" and the high end of the scale (10) is anchored with "Excellent."
4. Importance and Relevance. This scale deals generally with the effect of the course on development of interest, concern, appreciation, etc. Students are asked, "Was the course important and relevant for your own development in terms of appreciating new perspectives, broadening your outlook, understanding social issues, etc?" The low end of the scale (1) is anchored with "Irrelevant" and the high end of the scale (10) is anchored with "Very Relevant."
5. Difficulty. This scale deals with how hard, difficult or demanding the course was. Students are asked, "Considering such factors as exams, readings, assignments, and type of material covered, how would you rate the difficulty of the course?" The low end of the scale (1) is anchored with "Very Easy" and the high end of the scale (10) is anchored with "Very Hard."
6. Learning Course Content. This scale deals with development in the cognitive area based directly on the specific course content. Students are asked, "How well do you think you achieved the course objectives, i.e., learned the content and/or skills emphasized in the course?" The low end of the scale (1) is anchored with "Very Little" and the high end of the scale (10) is anchored with "Very Well."
7. Overall Rating. This scale represents the student’s overall, summative judgment about the course. Students are asked, "Considering everything, how would you rate this course?" The low end of the scale (1) is anchored with "Poor" and the high end of the scale (10) is anchored with "Excellent."