Analysis and interpretation of results
Good student evaluation is characterised by more than just stringent methodological requirements for data collection; it is just as important to set aside time for analysis and follow-up.
To make the analysis work easier, it can be a good idea to first think about what things you consider to be working well or not so well. If you have any hypotheses about these beforehand, it is a good idea to write them down. Such categories can make analysis easier because they give you a starting point. But make sure you are open to other types of feedback and not just to the ones you expect! Concentrate your analyses on conditions that are mentioned by many students and ignore responses that are seriously meant.
Student evaluations produce information that will be subject to interpretation. Such interpretations can be difficult and often require an understanding of surrounding factors that may have influenced the students' responses. Have there been any special circumstances during the period you are asking about that could explain the students' answers (illness among the teaching staff, new appointments, reforms, reconstruction work, changes in routines, etc.)?
The results will not necessarily explain how something actually is, but rather how it is perceived from the student's perspective. If, for instance, a course is receiving very poor feedback, this does not necessarily mean that the teaching is poor. There may be other explanations for this kind of feedback; a topic for a course may be perceived as difficult or it may gradually come to light that too few students are sufficiently engaged in a given theme for the course. One should therefore be cautious about drawing categorical conclusions. It is important to remember that there are also other important sources of information about education quality, such as teachers' perceptions, that can help to add nuance to the students' feedback.
Conditions in the study situation which students do not mention or comment on are often aspects that are perceived as positive. Remember that student evaluations have two purposes:
- to find indicators of quality weaknesses
- to describe good practice
Describing and maintaining conditions in the education being offered that work well is just as important as finding and correcting things that do not work.