Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
About the site
- What is IAR?
The Instructional Assessment Resources (IAR) Web site is a comprehensive resource to assist you in assessing student learning, classroom teaching, and instructional technology. The site also provides resources for conducting program evaluations and educational research. Site resources will also be helpful to those designing grant evaluations or conducting outcomes assessment.
- Who can use IAR?
IAR resources are available to anyone with access to the internet and are designed to be accessible to users with limited assessment experience as well as seasoned researchers.
- How is IAR organized?
IAR is organized by the task menu at the top of each page (Assess students, Assess teaching, Assess technology, and Evaluate programs). Each section is organized around a systematic process that begins with careful planning, follows with gathering data, and concludes with assistance in data analysis and sharing results. We recommend entering the site by selecting the task you are interested in performing and then proceeding to Planning and go through the Planning Steps. Appropriate data gathering methods for each task may be accessed directly in Method under the Planning menu.
- What is instructional assessment?
Instructional assessment is the systematic examination of a particular aspect of instruction (e.g., content delivery, method, testing approach, technological innovation) to determine its effect and/or how that aspect of instruction can be improved.
- What is instructional evaluation?
Instructional evaluation is a holistic examination of an instructional program including the program's environment, client needs, procedures, and instructional outcomes; also referred to as a program evaluation.
- Who can I contact for more help?
CTL staff is available to assist you with a variety of instructional assessment and evaluation issues related to student assessment, teaching assessment, instructional technology, outcomes assessment, needs assessment, and various assessment tools Go to the consulting services page for a list of consultants.
- Will you scan my survey results?
Yes, the CTL scanning and scoring unit can scan surveys that use standard, optical scan answer sheets (bubble sheets) but they do charge a fee for any scanning that is not part of regular coursework (e.g. exams) or that uses custom answer sheets. CTL does not create custom optical scan answer sheets but you may contact NCS Pearson for this service.
- Will you help me with my research grant?
While our focus is on assisting UT faculty and staff with the assessment of classroom instruction, instructional technology, or the evaluation of university funded instructional programs we are able to occasionally partner with faculty members conducting grant-funded classroom research. However, we cannot act as “outside evaluators” for research or program grants.
- What assessment related consulting does CTL provide?
CTL’s Research, Evaluation and Assessment section provides limited consulting on research design, instrument design (surveys, focus groups, interviews, classroom observation), and data analysis methods for UT Austin faculty and staff conducting assessment or evaluation related to classroom instruction. For a complete description of services available, go to the services page for CTL’s Research, Evaluation and Assessment section.
Data gathering methods
- Do you have survey templates available?
Because survey questions should be determined by the specific purpose and information needs of the study, we do not have a collection of “templates” for conducting instructional assessment and evaluation. Instead, we have created the IAR website to assist you in determining whether a survey fits your type of study, information needs, and study purpose. We also provide limited consulting on survey design and analysis when the project is related to classroom instruction.
- How do you write a good survey?
Constructing a good survey requires an understanding of the study’s purpose, the audience being surveyed, how you wish to analyze the results, and how the results will be used. IAR provides instruction in survey writing for the following types of studies:
- How large does my survey sample need to be?
Appropriate sample size is determined by a number of factors including the type of statistical analysis you intend to do, available resources, and respondent characteristics. How the sample is drawn is often as important as its size. For additional information on sampling click here.
- What is a good response rate for my survey? How do I get a high response rate?
An acceptable response rate for a survey may depend on the purpose of your study, the type of statistical analysis you intend to do, survey type (e.g., electronic, mail, phone), and your relationship to the respondents. For additional information on response rates click here.
- How do you conduct a focus group?
Conducting a good focus group requires an understanding of the study’s purpose, the group being studied, how you wish to analyze the results, and how the results will be used. The focus group facilitator should be comfortable leading group discussions and have good listening skills. IAR provides instruction in designing and leading focus groups for the following types of studies:
- How do I write good multiple-choice questions?
Writing good multiple-choice questions is a bit of a science but one that is easily learned. The IAR site provides detailed instructions in writing multiple-choice questions as well as instruction on creating other types of exams.
- How many questions should I include on a multiple-choice test?
There are no hard-and-fast rules, but a good rule of thumb is to allow for 1-2 minutes per question depending on the amount of reading and complexity of the question. So, for a 50-minute class, you should have a 25-50 question test. IAR also provides guidelines for creating all types of exams.
- What is a “rubric” and how do I use it?
A rubric is a systematic scoring guideline used to evaluate student work through the use of detailed, written standards. Rubrics are especially useful for evaluating student assignments, responses to essay questions, and any type of nonstandard student product (e.g., performances, artwork, projects, and portfolios). IAR provides detailed instruction on how to use rubrics to assess student work.
- What is the easiest way to get feedback from students about my teaching?
One quick way to get student feedback is by using one of the easy Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs). Another way is to use the Ongoing Course Assessment (OCA) system which allows you to create electronic student surveys by choosing items from a question bank or by writing your own questions. Once you have created a survey, the system automatically emails a link to your survey to all of the students in your class. Whichever method you use, careful planning will help you to focus your efforts.
- How can I use my UT Austin Course Instructor Survey to improve my teaching?
There are several ways the Course Instructor Survey (CIS) can help you to improve your teaching. One way is to customize the standard forms by adding your own questions. Some departments also allow you to use supplemental forms that more closely align with your instructional context. Finally, careful interpretation of numeric and written responses is essential for using CIS results to inform your instruction.
- Is it possible to use Blackboard to survey my students?
Yes, Blackboard has a quizzing feature that can also be used to survey students. IAR resources are available to help you survey your students using Blackboard.