What you need to know

As a supplement to MIT’s standard questions, instructors, departments, and schools may add a limited number of targeted, custom questions to their subject evaluations. They can be framed in a variety of formats and are an opportunity for you to gather nuanced feedback while making the survey more topical for your students. They can also help you assess curricular or pedagogical experiments, learn about student interests, or measure outcomes.

Some key points to remember:

  • Your custom questions are added to surveys by your department’s subject evaluation coordinator. The deadline is approximately three weeks before the start of an evaluation period.
  • You may create questions to be used in one or more subjects, and they can be geared toward instructors, sections, or the subject as a whole.
  • We strongly recommend limiting the number of custom questions for each subject to 13 in order to encourage student participation and enable them to spend their time giving substantive feedback.
  • If you are teaching a Communication-Intensive class — there may be up to three additional Institute questions added to your survey by the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (SOCR). These count against the 13-question limit.

What you need to do

  • Consult our sample question library and reach out to the Teaching and Learning Lab for assistance with designing effective survey questions.
  • Keep in mind our helpful Dos and Don’ts.
  • Contact your department’s subject evaluation coordinator regarding the number of questions you may add and their internal procedures and deadlines.

Custom question Dos and Don'ts

  • Do write questions that will be applicable now and in future terms, avoiding term-specific dates or language in order to compare answers over time.
  • Do choose a rating scale that makes sense in the context of the question.
    • Good: Readings contributed to my learning. (1=Strongly disagree, 7=Strongly agree)
    • Bad: Readings contributed to my learning. (1=Poor, 7=Excellent)
  • Do ensure that optional questions are framed at the appropriate level: subject-specific, across your department or program, or school-wide.
    • Subject-specific questions are the most common and target an individual subject’s content or format or an instructor’s teaching.
    • Department or program questions are applicable to groups of subjects and are typically used for curriculum development, accreditation, or visiting committee reports.
    • School-wide questions are the most general and are often used to measure goals and objectives as required by accreditation agencies.
  • Don’t ask questions that may identify your students including major, year, gender, race, or other demographic information. They will be removed from your surveys.
  • Don’t duplicate the standard Institute questions.

Question types

There are four types of questions you may use.

  1. Likert scale. The Institute questions employ a 7-point scale. The most positive response may be the highest number or the middle number:  (e.g. 1=Strongly Disagree and 7=Strongly Agree or 1=Too slow, 4=Just right, 7=Too fast). You may also choose to include a “Not Applicable” option.
  2. Multiple choice. Multiple choice questions can cover two to 30 options in a dropdown menu. Yes/No questions are multiple-choice with only two options. “Select all that apply” questions are not supported by MIT’s evaluation system.
  3. Numeric. You may set your own range of acceptable answers, but responses must be whole numbers.
  4. Open-ended. Keep in mind that unedited open-ended comments are available only to instructors and department heads. They are not included in the Institute evaluation reports for all members of the MIT community.