Policy on Student Evaluation of Teaching

Approved by Senate on 16 May 2007 upon recommendation of the Teaching and Learning Committee. This policy is meant to replace all earlier Senate Policies on Student Evaluation.


In May 2006, as part of a larger strategy to support and foster quality teaching and learning at UBC, Senate approved in principle recommendations related to student evaluations of teaching. These recommendations focused on supporting a modular evaluation process that enables the key stakeholders who influence the quality of the learning environment at UBC to ask relevant questions of students at appropriate times (concurrent and end of term, as appropriate) and then readily collect, analyze, and interpret and share those data.

Guiding principles embedded in the recommendations were that evaluation of teaching should be student-focused, and that the products of evaluations be used to inform teachers on how they can continuously improve their practice and to support the University efforts to monitor and nurture its teaching and learning environments. The Senate charged the Senate Teaching and Learning Committee and the Office of the Provost with developing an implementation strategy for the recommendations. A joint committee (SEOT) was struck to address this charge.

The SEOT committee has reviewed recommendations, guidelines, and policies established by Senate over the past few decades on student evaluation of teaching at the University, and is of the opinion that a new policy on student evaluation of teaching would be of benefit. It should be noted that this proposed policy does not specify the means of data collection and should be applied to all current and future means of obtaining student evaluations of teaching evaluation. However, the SEOT committee is of the view that a centrally supported, yet locally managed web-based system for student evaluations of teaching would greatly facilitate the uniform application of this policy. Evaluation of a potential system continues. This policy is meant to replace all earlier Senate Policies on Student Evaluation.

Introduction, Application, and Goals

This policy derives from recommendations approved by Senate in 1978, 1991, 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2006, and is in alignment with the conditions for appointment for faculty, sessional, and part-time faculty members. The policy also applies to teaching assistants when they take on substantial responsibility for student learning experience in a course. It applies to all undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies courses offered at UBC.

Student evaluation of teaching has four major goals:
  • To provide data that will be used to continuously improve the student’s learning experience.
  • To provide students, departments, faculties and the University with a source of data about the overall quality of teaching.
  • To provide teachers with information on their teaching performance and to assist with the further development of their teaching.
  • To provide the University with data on the quality of teaching to be used for operational purposes, including but not limited to assessment of faculty for merit and/or performance adjustment salary awards, promotion, tenure and institutional recognition.

Guiding Principles for Student Evaluation of Teaching

  • Student evaluations should be considered as part of an overall teaching evaluation system that includes regular peer review, faculty self-assessment, and other forms of assessment, as appropriate.
  • Educational programs and incentives should be developed to ensure a high rate of participation in the evaluation of teaching.
  • Evaluations of teaching shall ensure students’ confidentiality, e.g., the students will not be required to provide their name and/or student number.
  • Student evaluation of teaching should be student-centred (i.e., ultimately improving the learning experience) and it must provide a mechanism for receiving reliable and valid data from students on a range of topics related to their learning experiences.
  • Student Evaluations of Teaching should be administered in every course section at UBC every time it is offered including those offered to undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students. Exceptions to this requirement are courses of an individual/independent nature (e.g., independent study courses, special research projects, thesis, music studios, etc.) or sections with very small enrollments as defined by each faculty, where other means of obtaining student feedback may be more appropriate.
  • A rating scale (when used) of 1–5 should be adopted for all evaluation questions, with 5 being the most positive response.
  • In addition to the formal summative evaluations by students, faculty members are strongly encouraged to seek formative feedback during the course, using methods of their own choice.
  • Carefully planned dissemination, feedback, and response strategies are needed, so that the data can be used to improve the learning environment.
  • Different stakeholder constituencies of the University require different information in order to assess the quality of teaching and provide appropriate support structures that encourage teaching excellence.


  • A modular, multi-perspective design endorsed in principle by Senate at its May 2006 meeting shall be adopted to take into account the multiple stakeholders in need of Student Evaluations of Teaching data (students, teachers, departments, faculties, and the University).
  • Data can be collected through mechanisms as diverse as traditional paper forms and a centrally administered web-based evaluation platform. Regardless of delivery mechanism, Faculties are responsible for providing certain data to the University on a timely basis for reporting.
  • In addition to modules contributed by departments, Faculties and the Provost Office, individual teachers may elect to include a personal module for which the data collected will be confidential to that teacher.
  • The instruments used to obtain student evaluations shall carry a copy of this statement:

    The University recognizes the importance of high quality teaching for the academic preparation of its students and accordingly requires that teachers be annually evaluated by procedures which include provision for assessments by students. Students are advised that submissions containing malicious or otherwise inappropriate comments will be discarded.

    Except for confidential questions used solely for the benefit of an individual teacher, the University will use data from student evaluations of teaching to improve the learning environment of the University. In addition the University will use this data for operational purposes, including but not limited to assessment of faculty for promotion, tenure and institutional recognition.

  • Paper forms shall carry an additional statement that:

    Students may wish to print their comments to avoid recognition of their handwriting.

Access to Results of Student Evaluations of Teaching

The modular approach is intended to provide a means for collecting data in alignment with the needs of stakeholder constituencies. Table 1 depicts who will have access to the data in each module. Note that the teacher of a course will have access to all of the data collected related to his or her teaching during the evaluation whereas the University designate will have direct access only to the University Module results. If there is more than one instructor teaching a course, that individual will have access to his or her own results, but not necessarily those of co-teachers.

Table 1. Representation of who has access to which modules, where the X indicates access to the results of a particular module. See footnotes for details.

Stakeholder Representative
Individual Teacher Department Head or Designate Dean/Head of School or Designate University Designate Students/AMS
University Module X X X X [1]
Faculty/School Module X X X
Department Module X X X
Confidential Teacher Module X

[1] In compliance with the privacy laws, results for individual instructors will be released only with their consent.

Dissemination of Student Evaluations of Teaching

Student evaluations of teaching shall be disseminated according to the following guidelines:

  • Faculties shall make the University module data available to the Provost Office on an annual basis.
  • Deans, Heads or Directors or their equivalents will have access to all information contained in student evaluations of teaching except for the confidential questions collected at the specific request of individual teachers.
  • Individual teachers participating in a course taught by more than one individual will receive 1) a summary of the course evaluations, 2) numerical rating(s) of their own teaching performance together with any written comments and 3) the average numerical rating of the teaching performance of all other contributors to the course (given for the benefit of peer comparison). [2]
  • Teaching assistants will receive: a) numerical rating(s) of their own teaching performance together with any written comments and (b) the average numerical rating of the teaching performance of all other contributors to the course (given for the benefit of peer comparison).
  • Results will not be given to instructors until after they have submitted final marks for the course or courses in which they are being evaluated.
  • Results of the University Module will be made available to students (AMS). Release of results in any public format must comply with privacy regulations stipulated by the Office of University Counsel. Accordingly, no results that can be attributed to an individual teacher will be released without the consent of that instructor.
  • Each Faculty/School will annually provide students with a summary report of the general quality of teaching in their programs.
  • In special circumstances, the University’s designate in consultation with the Dean of the relevant Faculty, may choose not to release part or all of the summary data from teaching evaluations to the AMS or other authorized student organization. Examples of what might be withheld include evaluation summaries for:
    • faculty in their first year of teaching
    • classes with very small numbers of students
    • evaluations with very low response rates
    • first-time courses given on an experimental basisNote: In the case of B above, alternate methods of involving students in the evaluation of teaching will have to be used.

[2] In case of sections of courses taught by a large number of instructors, alternative modes of assessment may be used to gather the data, as appropriate.

Assignment of Responsibilities

Student’s Responsibilities

The University has repeatedly affirmed the importance of and necessity for students to be able to provide confidential and timely feedback to faculty members regarding their teaching. This feedback comprises part of the information which is used to assess faculty performance, and is considered in reappointment, promotion and tenure decisions. As such, UBC believes that participating in teaching evaluation is a student responsibility which should be approached with due seriousness.

University Administration Responsibilities

The Vice President Academic and Provost shall report annually to Senate on teaching quality, effectiveness, and evaluation, and on the extent to which the University is reaching its learning goals.

The University will support a central repository of information about student evaluation of teaching that contains such things as policy, historical information, best practice guidelines, etc., to facilitate professional development, information gathering, and scholarly discourse as well as avoid duplication of effort.

Faculty & Department/Unit Shared Responsibilities

Deans, Directors and Department Heads will ensure that the Student Evaluations of Teaching are administered according to this policy.

Deans, Directors, Department Heads and members of relevant committees shall review the procedures and instruments for the evaluation of teaching in their units and ensure that they are consistent with the statements made in this policy document.

Each Faculty and Department shall establish clear, written criteria which will be used to assess unsatisfactory teaching performance. These criteria shall be made known to anyone who is working in a teaching capacity (including Teaching Assistants).

Deans, Directors and Department Heads shall take action in response to results which show less than satisfactory teaching performance, and a report of such action shall be submitted annually to the Vice President Academic and Provost in the case of Deans and to the Dean in the case of Directors and Heads.

All units shall give serious consideration to establishing a committee whose function is to monitor the processes whereby teaching is evaluated and whose membership includes student representation.

Faculty Level Responsibilities

Each Faculty shall ensure that there is a level of uniformity in the evaluation questionnaires used by individual teaching units to allow the Faculty to make available statistical summary data on overall teaching effectiveness in individual courses.

Each Faculty shall develop policies and procedures that ensure access for their Professors, Instructors and Teaching Assistants to peer-based teaching development programs.

Department Head’s or Director’s Responsibilities

Heads or Directors of teaching units, or their delegates, shall use the results of teaching evaluations as one component in assessing teaching performance when recommending annual merit/performance salary adjustment increases for faculty, and for the purposes of recommendations concerning tenure and/or promotion.

Heads or Directors of teaching units, or their delegates, shall ensure that all faculty whose teaching is being assessed by students are given the opportunity to provide or withhold consent to their Student Evaluations of Teaching data being released to the students, as stipulated by this policy. However, these data will be used by UBC employees designated with the authority for the assessment of faculty for merit and/or performance adjustment salary awards, promotion, tenure and institutional recognition.

Each unit head must be responsible for ensuring that the criteria are set high enough to motivate teachers to improve the effectiveness of their teaching.

Faculty Member’s Responsibilities

Anyone teaching a course at UBC is responsible for familiarizing themselves with the policies and expectations related to student evaluation of teaching.

Anyone teaching a course at UBC is strongly urged to avail themselves of services offered through UBC teaching and scholarly service units (e.g., TAG, Institute for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) in order to understand how they can use student evaluations of teaching to inform and improve their teaching practice.

This information is for quick reference. For the full text of the Minutes of Senate, which include the motions and discussion, please see the Minutes Archive.