Guidelines for Implementing and Modifying Forward FOCUS


How do I send the survey to students to respond?

After making the survey available, you will then need to notify your students to take it through your usual communication methods (e.g, email, announcements, etc.). We recommend reminding students periodically to take the survey.


How do I encourage students to respond?

Consider making the FOCUS part of a weekly assignment checklist, reminder email, and other method used to communicate tasks to students.



  • Honestly explain in writing, video, or synchronously:
    • The purpose: Why are you doing this? What do you hope to learn? What will you do with results and what, if applicable, have you changed in your teaching based on student feedback?  What might they gain from doing the survey?  If possible, give an example of a change you’ve made to your courses from past student end-of-term feedback.
    • Reassure them their answers are anonymous and that you want their honest and constructive feedback.
    • State that it will take them approximately 8-10 minutes to complete the survey.
    • Describe/Show them where/how to access the survey.
    • Clarify the date and time by which they should complete the survey and what they should do if they have any questions (email you? Post on discussion board? Etc.)


  • Remind students about the survey periodically. 
    • Report the response rate and thank all those that have responded already.
    • Remind them that it takes 8-10 minutes to complete and that it is important to you to hear their feedback. 
    • Provide the directions to the survey again and restate the date and time by which to complete.​​


How can I find out how effective individual aspects of the course were for student learning?

  • We have four questions that ask about individual aspects of the course: lecture, discussions, reading, and homework. We suggest modifying these terms to use the names of activities as they were identified in the course syllabus, and focusing on the most important activities that you want feedback on.
  • Also, remember that the 2nd open-ended question on the Forward FOCUS (“What aspects of this course and/or the instructor's teaching of it (e.g., activities, assignments, expectations, tools, etc.) were particularly HELPFUL FOR YOUR LEARNING?“) will give you feedback about what aspects of the course were effective. We have found this question very informative in our CTL MAPs. 
  • We also ask students what aspect of remote instruction they would want to see in a face-to-face version of the course (e.g., pre-recorded lectures? Zoom office hours?). 

What are some tips from developing my own rating scale (quantitative) questions?

  • As surveys get longer, student response rate decreases. We recommend replacing, rather than adding questions, when possible.
  • It will be easiest for students if you use the same response scale as already exists on the survey: that is, a 1-5 response scale with 1=Almost Never and 5=Almost Always. 
    • See Moodle or Blackboard guidelines for adding additional questions with this response scale
  • Focus on the most important, “big picture” aspects of the course for which feedback will help you improve the course and make changes. 
  • When possible, avoid double barreled questions that ask about two different things for which students might have different perceptions:
    • Double-barreled: I found the technology easy to use and helpful for my learning.
    • Instead: I found the technology easy to use.  


What are best practices for writing open-ended, qualitative questions?

  • Limit the number of open-ended questions to encourage thoughtful responses.
  • For the question that matters most to you, consider adding a statement like “Your opinion is very important to me” to encourage a response. Do not use this statement for every open-ended question. 
  • Focus on the most important aspects of the course for which feedback will help you improve the course and make changes. Provide students with context for questions:
    • For example, The TA in this course was tasked with providing you feedback on your research paper. In addition, I also provided you with a detailed rubric for research reports and had you self-evaluate your paper. Which did you find most helpful—TA feedback or the self-evaluation with the rubric—and why?   


Return to the Forward FOCUS main webpage