Using the Forward FOCUS to Design Forward

Using the Forward FOCUS to Design Forward

As you review student responses to any course feedback tool, remember that their responses reflect not only the experiences they may have had in your class but also the challenges they were experiencing in their own lives. Remember that you did your best, and use the feedback as a starting point for understanding what happened this semester and thinking about your teaching options moving forward.

You can easily view student responses following the directions in the last section of the Blackboard FOCUS guide. In Google Forms, click on the "Responses" tab when viewing the survey. To retain a copy, print the survey responses using your web browser or download as a .csv file.


Reflecting on Student Responses

In general, we recommend reflecting on Forward FOCUS responses with these three guiding questions:

  1. What did students say went WELL? Why?
  2. What were the “pinch points” for students? Why?
    A “pinch point” is a source of persistent challenge, frustration, or where students just tend to get bogged down despite our best efforts. Every course has pinch points. To learn more, please visit our page Identifying and Responding to Pinch Points.
  3. Based your strengths and pinch points, what manageable changes might positively enhance student learning and your teaching of the course?

Other Ways to View Forward FOCUS Responses

You might consider graphing your quantitative responses on the Forward FOCUS. While you can view your responses within Moodle or Blackboard, below we highlight two ways you might visualize your responses by first downloading the responses into a spreadsheet and then creating charts.

By area of effective instruction. The first eight questions on the Forward FOCUS assess five different areas of effective instruction: communication and transparency, learning supports, equity and inclusion, social presence, and engagement. By averaging your scores by area, you can more easily see your strengths in instruction.


PowerPoint slide depicting five areas of effective instruction
Figure 1: Five areas of effective instruction with bar chart of averaged scores by area.


Ranking all quantitative responses. Professor Nick Tooker in Engineering shared his experiences and his anonymous student responses with the CTL. We generated this graph of all of his quantitative items (Questions 1-10, with modifications specific to course to assess the value of “group work” and “labs”), and he was able to see student responses in a new light.


Bar graph of quantitative ietms
Figure 2: Bar chart of selected responses to quantitative items in descending mean order


Professor Tooker was gratified to see that students felt he was communicating clear expectations and supporting them to learn. They also valued his brief pre-recorded lectures and felt they know what content was critical to learn. Students also valued labs (a survey question the instructor added to his Forward FOCUS survey), and in the open-ended responses, students explained it was because the instructor was present to answer questions and the labs offered hands-on experience.

Here are Professor Tooker’s thoughts on viewing his responses this way compared to the Moodle view:

For perspective, [after viewing responses on Moodle] I got the indication that the online labs were less useful and the recorded lectures were more useful (not surprising given the nature of the labs), but I didn't fully appreciate how big the impact was. The bar chart really helped drive that home. The new takeaway for me is that I need to work harder on making online learning labs relevant. It also drove home that I should continue with the lecture mode [of short videos in Voice Thread], as it seems to be working.

If you would like assistance creating chart of your Forward FOCUS data, please email for more information.


Next steps

Request a consultation with the CTL to formulate a reasonable and actionable plan for the course going forward. Even if you think a solution is clear (e.g., different technology), it’s still good to do some “big picture” thinking in conjunction with CTL consultants as a first step.