Guidelines for Interpreting and Responding to Your Student Ratings of Teaching (SRT) Scores

Your SRT scores and comments reflect your students’ feedback on their experience in your course and offer an important perspective on your instruction and their learning. Data from the SRTs reflect student perceptions of instruction and are not necessarily proxies for student learning (Uttl, 2017). Consider the data along with other sources of instructional quality such as student outcomes and peer feedback and evaluation (Linse, 2017).

Refer to Using Student Rating of Teaching (SRT) Results in Evaluating Teaching from Faculty & Academic Affairs for more information.

Interpret Your SRT Scores and Comments

Identify Actionable Themes

In general, use your scores to get a sense of students' overall experience of the course; use the comments to supplement the scores and identify themes. Are any of the themes actionable? If so, these are areas to focus your attention on when making decisions about the next time you teach the course. Pay attention to what is working well for your students. These are practices that you want to continue using. Areas where students are struggling are the areas that you might want to consider modifying. It may be helpful to discuss your results with a peer or colleague to get an outside opinion about the feedback.

Quantitative Scores

  • Do your quantitative scores fall in the agree or strongly agree range? This would indicate that students had a generally positive experience in the course. 
  • Do your scores fall into the neutral or disagree range? This would indicate that students had a less than positive experience in the course. 

Qualitative Comments

  • Is a similar comment occurring multiple times? 
  • Is there merit to any of the themes that emerge?

Respond to Your SRT Feedback

Even if your student feedback is overwhelmingly positive, there may be changes you would like to make to your course. Choose the changes that you believe will have a positive impact on student learning and are appropriate for your course and your comfort level.

Below are strategies for practices related to the individual questions on the SRT. In creating this guide, we used the questions from the SRT form posted on the Office of Measurement Services website as of October 27, 2021.

Strategies Related to Individual Instructor Questions

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The instructor was well prepared for class

  • Begin and end class on time. Many students equate instructor preparedness with the ability to begin and end class on time. Make it a habit to arrive to class on time. Plan your class session so that you have enough time to finish all activities. Build in a little flex time if you’re unsure how long activities might take. Avoid going off on unnecessary, lengthy tangents that may impact your ability to finish on time. 
  • Create an agenda for your class that begins with the learning objectives for the session and includes a brief outline of what is going to happen. Present this to students at the beginning of your session. This provides students with an orientation to the session, provides structure, and sets up expectations. It communicates to students that you have a plan for class and are prepared. Refer to your agenda during class as you move to new topics or activities. Allow time at the end of class to summarize the main points and connect them to your learning objectives.
  • Ensure your Canvas site is up to date and easily navigated. Your Canvas site is an extension of your course and a useful platform for organizing course resources and communicating with your students. Sites that are difficult to navigate have been associated with lower ratings for instructors (Simunich, 2015). Make sure your Canvas site is up to date, accessible, and usable. The UMN Design an Accessible and Usable Course Site provides suggestions for how to achieve this: 
    • create a landing page, 
    • limit items in the course menu, 
    • use the module layout to arrange course materials, 
    • structure content pages, and 
    • review the content for accessibility.

The instructor presented the subject matter clearly

  • Present and follow an agenda that includes the learning objectives and an outline for the class session. Share this with students at the beginning of the session. This provides students with a clear idea of how you have organized the material for them and how it all fits together. Refer to your agenda by using verbal cues as you transition from one topic to the next (Titsworth, 2004). Do this by using connecting statements to clearly indicate you have finished with one topic and how it connects to the next topic in the agenda. Allow time at the end of the session to give a brief summary of the main points and describe how they connect to your learning objectives.
  • Ask for student questions at regular intervals with patience and non-judgement. Encourage students to ask questions by ensuring you give them enough time to respond before moving on. Consider allowing ten seconds after you ask for questions. Consistently respond to student questions in a non-judgmental manner. This approach helps to create a more inclusive environment in which students may feel more comfortable asking questions. You can also probe student understanding by using brief Classroom Assessment Techniques designed to collect feedback from all students.
  • Provide clear instructions for in-class and out-of-class activities and assignments. Provide students with written instructions for assignments and activities. For in-class or synchronous activities you could provide a handout, have instructions on a slide, or put them into the Zoom chat. Ask for student questions about your instructions to ensure they are understood.
  • Ensure all course materials are accessible. Ensure that your slides and visual materials are not cluttered or overly complicated. Find more guidance on slide accessibility at Accessible U slide presentations. Ensure your Canvas site is accessible, usable, and easy to navigate. Find guidance on improving your Canvas site at Canvas: Design an accessible and usable course site. Beyond your slides and course site, ensure the rest of your course resources are accessible. Find guidance on creating accessible course materials at Accessible U.

Interactions with the instructor helped me learn

  • Solicit, encourage, and respond positivelyto student questions. Aim to create an environment where students feel comfortable and confident asking questions. You can do this by pausing periodically to ask for questions and responding in a non-judgmental and supportive way to those questions. Students don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their classmates and your reactions to their questions sets the tone for how willing students will be to ask questions in the future.
  • Inform students that your feedback is intended to help them learn and improve. If you don’t share your intention with students, they may perceive constructive feedback as discouraging or punitive. Reiterate this point throughout the term. Try to frame your feedback so that it is future-oriented: designed to help students succeed on future activities and assessments. 
  • Communicate to students that you want them to succeed in your course. Provide suggestions for how to study, prepare for, and be successful in the course. Include these suggestions in your syllabus. Encourage students to attend office hours. Some instructors refer to these as “student hours” to indicate that the focus is on helping the student.

The instructor treated me with respect

  • Address students by name. This includes using their preferred name, the correct pronunciation of their name, and their correct pronouns. Collect this information from students with a brief survey at the beginning of the term. For large in-person classes consider having students construct name tents. Encourage students to use NameCoach to record how to correctly pronounce their name so that you may use these as guides. For more guidance on using student names see Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center Tips for Learning Student Names.
  • Acknowledge student responses positively, while still correcting misunderstandings. It’s important to correct any student misunderstandings that show up in questions, comments, and their assignments, but do so in a positive, supportive manner. In addition to the words you use, consider your tone when communicating with students to avoid comments that could be interpreted as condescending, passive aggressive, or as a microaggression
  • Recognize and respect prior knowledge and experience. Students come to our courses with varying levels of knowledge and experience. Collect information on their experience in a brief survey given at the beginning of the term. Acknowledge that some students may have prior knowledge or knowledge and experience from a different perspective about your subject. They also may have real-world experience with your subject. Provide opportunities for students to share these views as part of your teaching practice.
  • Explain the reasoning behind your policies. Use language to describe policies as supportive for learning rather than punitive. Try to avoid syllabus policies that focus on what students should not do or what is not acceptable. Bolding or highlighting these may come across as disrespectful to students. Focus on the behaviors your policies are trying to promote.

The instructor provided feedback intended to improve my course performance

  • Provide grading and feedback in a timely manner. Inform students at the beginning of the course how long it will take to receive feedback on their assignments and assessments. Endeavor to return assignments in a timely manner especially if the feedback is needed to complete a future assignment. If feedback will be delayed, inform students when they can expect to receive it. Consider ways to provide quick feedback that don’t involve a lot of hands-on commenting, like posting answer keys or providing global feedback.
  • Provide feedback early in the term. Students should have an indication of how they are doing early in the term so they can make necessary adjustments. Give students an assignment with feedback well before the middle of the term. Keep your grade book up to date so students can keep track of their course standing.
  • Use well-designed rubrics or answer keys. Rubrics articulate standards for student work that allow for more transparent, objective, and efficient grading. Create rubrics for class assignments and assessments and share these with students ahead of time. In the absence of a rubric, you could provide an example of excellent student work as a guide (Carless, 2020). Soon after students have completed an assignment or assessment you can post an answer key with explanations to indicate what you were looking for. For more information on creating rubrics visit Designing and Using Rubrics from the Teaching with Writing Program (UMTC). 
  • Scaffold papers and projects. Divide up major papers, projects, and assessments into sub-assignments spread throughout the term and provide feedback on them. This allows you to catch and correct any student misunderstandings early and prevents students from procrastinating until just before the due date.

Strategies Related to Course Questions

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I have a deeper understanding of the subject matter as a result of this course

  • Show students how they have progressed in a course. This can be done by routinely pointing out when they have achieved learning outcomes. Another approach is to administer a diagnostic pre- and post-test covering course concepts and skills. Share the results with students. 
  • Provide students with an organizing framework for the course and routinely refer to it. Novices organize information differently from experts. Show students how you organize course related information and guide them to organize course material similarly. This allows students to categorize new information within the context of the big picture, illuminating how different concepts relate to each other.
  • Connect your subject to authentic, real-world problems. Connecting your subject to concepts and issues students care about is a way to increase their motivation for understanding the subject matter. Demonstrating concrete applicability of an abstract concept or theory is a way to make it real to your students.

My interest in the subject matter was stimulated by this course

  • Show enthusiasm for your subject. Share your genuine interest and appreciation for your discipline, field, and subject matter with your students. Students quickly pick up on instructors who don’t value the subject, topic, or format in which they are teaching. 
  • Point out the real-world relevance of your subject. You can do this by sharing examples of your subject in the media. Inform students how completing assignments will prepare them for future assignments or develop skills to use beyond your course. 
  • Ask students to make connections to your topic from their lives. This allows students to bring their lived experiences to bear while respecting their different backgrounds, cultures, and ways of knowing. 

Instructional technology employed in this course was effective

  • Ensure your Canvas site is organized, easy to navigate, and accessible. Your learning management system is an important instructional technology component of your course. A common student complaint is a Canvas site that is difficult to navigate, confusing, unorganized and in some cases under-utilized. Aim for a site that organizes material by class date and maintains a consistent internal structure throughout. Post new materials in consistent places and at consistent times. Refer to Design an Accessible and Usable Course Site for more information on creating an accessible and usable course site.
  • Use relevant technology and learn how to use it effectively. Add new technology to your course to support student learning, rather than to showcase the latest tech trend. When using technology for the first time, spend some time practicing and familiarizing yourself with it before using it with students. Try to have a back-up plan in place in case technology fails. Provide students with instructions or training in how to use the instructional technology you will employ.
  • Ensure your presentation slides are clear and accessible. Presentation software is a technology used by most instructors. Some general guidelines include not overloading slides with too much text and information - aim for 1 idea per slide. Ensure text is large enough to read. Choose color combinations with high contrast so that text is accessible (Fandrey, 2017). Share slides with students, either before or after class, as appropriate to your learning goals. Refer to Slide Presentations on Accessible U for more information.

The activities in this course supported my learning

  • Ensure class and homework activities directly support learning objectives and assessments. A common complaint from students are activities that feel like “busy work”. Choose activities that directly support your learning objectives or prepare students for upcoming assessments. 
  • Tell students how activities will support their learning and keep reminding them. Provide students with an explanation of how completing an activity will help them meet learning objectives since that connection may not be obvious to them. Frame student feedback on their performance around your learning objectives to further solidify the connection. 
  • Share goals for assigning certain readings. Provide students with your rationale for the choices you have made for reading and viewing assignments. This can include why a particular text, author, or perspective was chosen along with describing how the reading will help prepare them for class activities, assignments, or assessments. You may want to provide students with guidance on how to approach the reading, including how long it should take or questions to keep in mind as they read.

The amount of effort needed to be successful in this course is reasonable

  • Be familiar with the UMN policy on credit hour work time. Structure your course work to align with that. The undergraduate policy states that “one credit represents, for the average University undergraduate student, three hours of academic work per week”. This is to earn an average grade and may require more effort for professional and graduate students. For a three-credit course this would add up to 9 hours per week including any in-class time. You can use a workload calculator (Wake Forest University) to estimate how much time different activities take. If your estimate of student work time differs significantly from UMN policy, adjust your course accordingly. Inform students at the beginning of the semester how much time they will need to put into the class to be successful. Consider polling your students early in the term to determine how many hours a week they are putting into the class and respond as needed to this data. 
  • Provide students with guidance on time-management and study strategies. The amount of time students spend learning course material is important, but so is how students spend their time. Students may be spending time working on the course, but not in the ways that can support success. Sometimes students may adopt study strategies that are time-consuming but not useful. Suggest evidence-based study strategies to your students such as practice testing, explaining material to someone else, and spacing and interleaving study time rather than cramming (Dunlosky, 2013). Provide guidelines for how much time they should spend on reading and homework each week. After the first assessment you can ask students to reflect on how they prepared and what they will do differently for the next assessment. 
  • Provide students with strategies for approaching the course reading and viewing. Not all students come to our classes with effective reading skills for our disciplines. There are disciplinary differences for the most effective ways to approach reading. Share with your students the norms for your subject and discipline. How much time should they spend on reading? Would creating guiding questions for them to use during the reading be useful?

The grading standards for this course were clear

  • Include in your syllabus a list of all major assignments and assessments, their due dates, their point totals and the % contribution to the final grade. This is outlined in UMN syllabus policy. Doing so allows students to plan their study approaches so that they can integrate and balance coursework from other classes, employment, and family care-giving responsibilities. Avoid making changes to the due dates of assessments and assignments unless absolutely necessary. Students plan their overall study approach based on the assignment due dates for all their courses.
  • Ensure grading is consistent between multiple instructors or TAs. This can be done by having shared grading rubrics, alternating grading between instructors throughout the term, and having grading standardization sessions for TAs. For large classes with exams, have one instructor or TA grade all the submissions for a single question or set of questions. Consider deidentifying student work prior to grading to help reduce any bias (Moss-Racusin, 2012). 
  • Make assessment expectations clear. Address the Why, What, and How of assessments with students before they begin:
    • Why do they have to do the assessment or assignment? What is its purpose? How does it connect with your learning outcomes? What skills will it help students develop?
    • What do they need to do? What are the tasks students need to complete for the assessment or assignment? What questions do they have about what they need to do?
    • How will they be evaluated? What are the criteria for success? This can come in the form of a rubric, examples of previous student work, and practice activities with feedback.

Additional Suggestions

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Request, acknowledge, and respond to early term student feedback about the class

  • Collect feedback from your students early in the term so that you have time to make appropriate changes. Structure questions in terms of what helps and interferes with their learning. Allow students to respond anonymously. Analyze the responses and share with students the changes you will make and the ones you won’t and why. Collecting and responding to early term feedback has been linked with improved end-of-semester ratings (McGowan, 2011).
  • For large classes, consider creating class representatives. Students in these voluntary roles would collect feedback from classmates on how the class is going and share that with you in periodic, brief meetings.

For more information on approaches to and benefits of requesting student feedback refer to the Early Term Feedback on Teaching resource.

Talk about teaching with your colleagues

Your colleagues are great resources for talking about teaching and learning new approaches to try in your teaching. Sit in on each other's classes and meet to discuss what you observed. Ask a colleague to review your syllabus, assessments and assignments, or other course materials.

Create a culture of valuing feedback in your teaching

Tell students that you value their constructive feedback. Describe changes you have made to your course based on previous student feedback. Collect feedback throughout the term and respond to it. Describe the type of student feedback that helps you the most e.g. focusing on concrete examples, suggesting changes for things that aren’t working.

Contact the Center for Educational Innovation

Contact the Center for Educational Innovation with questions or to request a confidential consultation about your student feedback or other teaching and learning concerns.


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