Student Perception of Instruction

Student Perception of Instruction
Essie Childers, Professor, Blinn College

It happens every semester, in every section in all of our classes near the end of the 14th week: the administration of the Student Perception of Instruction (SPOI) course evaluation. The SPOI can be administered online or face-to-face, though the instructor must not be present. The purpose of the SPOI is to allow students to evaluate the instructor’s performance from their viewpoints. The first section of the evaluation includes questions referring to the student, for example:

  • “Do you come to class prepared?”
  • “What grade do you expect to make in this class?”
  • “Have you contacted your instructor outside of class?”

The rest of the evaluation includes questions and/or statements about the instructors’ course organization, course instruction, and learning environment. A few example statements:

  • “My instructor provided a syllabus at the first session.”
  • “My instructor is available during scheduled office hours.”
  • “My instructor presents material in a clear, logical manner.”
  • “My instructor exams and quizzes correlates to the objectives.”
  • “My instructor creates a learning environment which is inclusive and friendly.”

The student must rate the accuracy of the statements using a scale of one to five (1-5), with one (1) as low and five (5) as high. At the end, students have an opportunity to write comments on how the course could be more effective.

I read nearly 155 positive, constructive comments, such as:

  • “She is awesome!”
  • “This course was great!”
  • “This course was great the way it was.”
  • “I really enjoyed my professor.”
  • “She is very good at what she does and is always available to help if the student has any questions.”
  • “I would recommend this professor to everyone.”
  • “I wish I could have her next semester.”

Yet, I pout over one negative comment: “I didn’t learn anything! She should be fired!” I am left to contemplate what caused this student to be filled with such great disappointment about the class or my teaching methods.

Instead of being on the defense, I reflect and ask myself: what can faculty learn from the SPOI? I think there are three noteworthy things to consider: (1) reflective dialogue; (2) using the Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ); and (3) listen, learn and take action.

Reflective Dialogue

In Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Fink suggests the frequent use of reflective dialogue. With reflective dialogue, students are given an opportunity to reflect upon the course through brief writing assignments. Students can also share their comments with other members of the class. This is a great way for students to vent their opinions rather than waiting for the end of the semester faculty evaluation. When students know you care about them being successful they give honest feedback.

Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ)

Formulated by the instructor, the Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ) asks students a few questions for which they provide anonymous written responses. As Barkley states in Student Engagement Techniques, the CIQ helps students become more aware of themselves as learners and encourages them to take an active role in influencing the class climate so that it is most conducive to their learning. Instructors can administer this questionnaire weekly or biweekly to address activities specific to the week. For example, a question could be: “Were there any actions or activities that were unclear or puzzling this week?”

Listen, Learn and Take Action

Make a list of constructive comments and make reasonable changes to improve your teaching. Take off your teacher lens and consider the student’s viewpoint. Many student comments are very logical and faculty should welcome suggestions. For instance, I assigned a group project for students to create and design a poster addressing one trait of a successful student. In the end-of-semester SPOI, one student commented that it would have been nice to create the poster earlier in the semester to get to know the group members. Wow! Now that makes sense. Another reasonable comment I received was to not have a major project due right after a holiday. Of course! What was I thinking? Often times in planning, faculty look more at the timing between assignments rather than the date the assignment is actually due.

Reflective dialogue, the CIQ, and taking into consideration students’ comments from the SPOI can actually improve your teaching and the relationship with your students. What do you think? Do you see value in faculty evaluation by students? Let us know in the comment section!


Fink, L. (2013), Creating Significant Learning Experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 200-201.
Brookfield, E. (2010), Student Engagement Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 328-329.