Assess teaching

Analyzing CIS data

Interpreting numerical feedback

Sort your CIS feedback forms into stacks based on the rating each student gave for the “Overall Course” rating.   Beginning with the highest ratings first, examine student responses one stack at a time to help you put the results in perspective. For example, it is helpful to see if only the students who rate the course low say you are somewhat unorganized, or if those who rate the course high also say that.

Review the Results Summary Sheet, paying particular attention to the course response rate (# of students who completed the CIS / # of students enrolled in the course). CIS results may not be valid if the response rate is less than shown below:

Class size Recommended response rate

5 – 20


21 – 30


31 – 50


More than 50


The frequency distribution (number of students who respond to each option) for each question is also important. Note the questions that have multiple responses in the “disagree” and “strongly disagree” options.   These are areas you may want to consider changing in some way.

Lastly, look at the mean (average) for each question. If a question has a mean of less than 3.5, you may want to consider making changes in that area. For specific suggestions, see The Research Behind Student Evaluations.

Compare your means to those of your college and the university.  (For UT instructors only--EID required) If your means are lower than the means for your college/school, you may want to consider making changes in that area.

Chart changes over time by using a spreadsheet to graph the means for each question by year to identify trends and make timely changes.

Interpreting written feedback

Sort your CIS feedback forms into stacks based on the rating each student gave for the “Overall Course” rating, examining responses one stack at a time to help you put the results in perspective.  

Categorize student comments using the grid below to help you analyze comments. Use the following categories (adapted from Hildebrand, Wilson & Dienst, 1971):

Written comment analysis grid

Items in italics are positive comments; those not in italics are negative comments; numbers in parentheses indicate number of students who made similar comments.

Rating of course Subject matter Organization / Clarity Interaction Dynamism / Enthusiasm



  • Very rewarding class!
  • Readings were very helpful.
  • Weekly assignments were very helpful.
  • The way the course was structured was a benefit.   We weren’t force-fed.
  • Encouraged students to come up with their own ideas and theories.
  • Discussion – best part of the class.
  • Instructor is one of the best I have encountered.


Above average

  • I learned a lot! (3)
  • Reduce the number of readings.
  • Organization difficult to follow at times. (3)
  • Be more specific.
  • Enjoyed the interaction – there are too few interactive classes here!
  • Energetic and enjoyable teacher.



  • Guest speakers very interesting.
  • Small group discussions most intellectually stimulating.
  • Would have helped if class had been smaller.


Below average

  • Unless you are an adamant cultural ecologist there is no place for you in this class.
  • Lectures did little to help me understand the course.
  • Needed to be more organized. (4)
  • Mostly listened to everyone else’s opinions.
  • Needs more frequent grading.



  • Extremely vague about everything.
  • Dr. X knows what she is teaching and is interested


In the example above, note how often “lack of organization” was mentioned and the course rating given by those students (4, 2, and 1).   This instructor should consider how to become more organized, because even students who rated the course above average indicated that more organization was needed.

Focus on general patterns and themes rather than individual comments. For example, if there are twenty comments praising your organizational abilities but only three that criticize them, your organizational skills are probably fine.

Additional assistance

If you have additional questions about using your CIS results to improve instruction, contact Dr. Karron Lewis.

Additional information

Hildebrand, M., Wilson, R.C., & Dienst, E.R.   (1971)   Evaluating University Teaching.   Center for Research and Development in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley.

Lewis, K.   (Ed.)   (2001)   Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations.   New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 87, Fall 2001.   San Francisco, CA:   Jossey-Bass.

Theall, M. & Franklin, J. (Eds.) (1991)   Effective Practices for Improving Teaching.   New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 48, Winter 1991.   San Francisco, CA:   Jossey-Bass.

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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