Guidelines for Implementing and Modifying Forward FOCUS

Guidelines for Implementing and Modifying Forward FOCUS

When should I send the survey to students?

We recommend that you give students about two weeks to complete the survey. For faculty using both Forward FOCUS and the SRTI, we recommend not overlapping the survey administration dates. For assistance with setting the start and end dates (Moodle or Blackboard only) or making the survey available to students, please email for support.

How do I encourage students to respond?

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

  • Explain in writing, video, and/or in person:
    • 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.
      • 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 or difficulty accessing.
  • 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. Focus on the most important activities that you want feedback on.

  • Also, remember that the second open-ended question on the Forward FOCUS (“What aspects of this course and/or the instructor's teaching of it - 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 midterm assessments.


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. If you have used the Forward FOCUS in previous semesters, consider that tracking scores on similar items over time can be helpful in drawing conclusions about your teaching and sharing your teaching strengths.

  • It will be easiest for students if you use the same response scale that already exists on the survey, for example: a 1-5 response scale with 1=Almost Never and 5=Almost Always

  • 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?