In many cases, institutions choose to use only the Diagnostic Feedback instrument for all courses, or specific departments may alternate instruments based on decisions of that unit. 

About Learning Objectives

In the the Diagnostic Feedback or Learning Essentials instruments, the main indicator of teaching effectiveness is student progress on learning objectives. The instruments are designed around 13 learning objectives that encompass all objectives you would have in a course. These learning objectives are broader objectives that precede your more specific learning outcomes but are subsequent to your major course goals.

Organizing your course learning outcomes through IDEA Learning Objectives can help you think through your course more thoroughly and ensure you are covering concepts and applications as thoroughly as needed. You might also consider organizing your course syllabus this way so that students see clearly how your learning outcomes fit with the objectives. 

Whether or not you organize all your course learning outcomes by IDEA objectives, those objectives in your course that are Essential or Important must be identified before administering the survey. IDEA instruments double-weight Essential items and single-weight Important items while those of minor or no importance are not used in calculating the ratings. This enables you to focus the survey on those learning objectives that are vital in your individual course. 

Choosing Learning Objectives

If you are using the Diagnostic Feedback or Learning Essentials instruments, the Essential or Important learning objectives of your course must be identified before the close of the evaluation. Your institution may prescribe which learning objectives are to be rated in your course and pre-select them for you, or it may be left to you to choose. If they are pre-selected, you can upgrade an item (for instance, make an “Important” item “Essential), but you cannot downgrade an item. Check with your Course Evaluation Administrator if you do not know the options for this at your institution. For Teaching Essentials, there is nothing you need to do ahead of time.

If you are to choose your own, there are few things to consider:

As a general rule, limit your selection to between 3-5 objectives by prioritizing those objectives that are Important or Essential in the course. Although all the learning objectives may be addressed to some extent in your course, it is unrealistic to expect that students could make significant progress on all or even most of them in one course.

So again, try to identify those 3 to 5 that are most important. But be true to your course. If you are teaching a course where you are targeting only one objective (such as a lab experience), then it would be appropriate to select only one learning objective. On the other hand, if you are teaching a capstone class in your major, and you have targeted many learning objectives, it would be appropriate for you to select more than five.   

Selection is more obvious in some courses than others. To help, consider these three strategies:  

  1. Create a chart that aligns goals, IDEA learning objectives, and your learning outcomes. Ask these questions:  
    • Is it a significant part of the course?
    • Do you do something specific to help students accomplish the objective? 
    • Does the student’s progress on the objective influence his or her grade?
  2. Use the Teaching Goals Inventory to help narrow important objectives.
  3. Use relevant learning theory such as Bloom's Taxonomy to narrow the focus

To choose objectives, see the How to complete objective selections resource. 

Adding Custom Questions

Individual faculty are able to add custom questions to specific courses as needed (provided this is allowed by your institution) on all instruments except Instant Feedback. For example, you may want to collect student feedback about a particular resource used in the class or their feedback about the usefulness of a grad assistant. Custom questions must be added before the administration period of the survey begins. Institutions often do not want to use custom questions so that surveys between classes are the same length and do not over-burden students, so this option may not be available to you. 

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