Student Course Survey (SCS) – Information for faculty

The Student Course Survey (SCS) is faculty-developed evaluative survey students complete in class at the end of each semester.

All faculty are required to administer the SCS in all of their regular-semester courses with the exception of labs, independent studies, honors theses, courses with only one student enrolled, and EXPR-prefixed courses.

What do I need to do and when do I need to do it?

About a month before the end of classes, you will receive one large brown envelope and one large blue envelope via campus mail. The brown envelope will contain the machine-readable SCS forms (view an example), and the blue envelope will contain the optional blue sheet comment forms (view an example or see more information about the blue sheets below).

1. Review the contents of your SCS envelopes - sooner rather than later

When you receive your SCS forms, please check the contents of each envelope to ensure you have an adequate number of bubble sheets and blue sheets. You should also check the bubble sheets to verify that the instructor name, course prefix, number, and section on the forms are correct. If you have any questions or problems, contact the Provost's Office at x4352.

2. Choose a class time to administer the SCS.

The SCS must be administered before classes end, not over reading period, and not during finals. The SCS must be administered in a neutral (i.e. a classroom) setting. That is, not during an end-of-term special event or social gathering.

You should reserve about ten minutes at the end of one of your final classes to administer the SCS. Allot more time if you are planning to administer the blue sheets.

3. Choose a student to distribute, collect and turn-in the SCS forms

A guiding principle in the SCS is the need for anonymity, which is essential for frank, honest responses. The SCS is to be administered without any faculty present. No faculty or administrative staff outside the Provost's office should serve as a collection point for the completed forms. As you leave, ask one of your students to take responsibility for distributing and collecting the forms, sorting them into the appropriate return envelopes, and delivering them to the drop boxes located in the mailroom of Paresky Center. Please ask students to make sure that no blank bubble sheets are left behind in the classroom, as it could result in students filling out forms for the wrong course.

The procedures for administering SCS to tutorials is slightly different. Please see below for more information.

Please make a mental note of the name of that student in order to assist the Provost's Office, if necessary, in the recovery of missing forms.

What if I am teaching a Tutorial?

We suggest that instructors of tutorials make use of one of these two methods for administering the SCS:

  1. Some instructors wrap-up their tutorial courses with a group meeting in the final week of classes in which all students (from all sections) are present. If this is your habit, then you may simply administer the SCS at the conclusion of the group meeting in the regular fashion, that is, by handing out the forms to every enrolled student and leaving the room. One student is then responsible for collecting all the forms and returning them to the collection box in the Paresky Center mailroom.
  2. If you do not hold such a group meeting, but rather meet with just the pairs of students until classes end, you must give each student in each section an envelope with the SCS forms. In this method, each individual student is responsible for turning in his or her own forms to the collection box.

To facilitate your use of either method, you are provided with enough forms and 9x12 envelopes to cover every enrolled student in your tutorial. Students may put their blue sheet and their SCS form in the same 9x12 envelope.

What if a student misses my class the day I administer SCS?

If a student misses class on the day you administer SCS, they can come to the Provost's Office Monday-Friday between 8:30 and 4 to fill out forms.

What are blue sheets?

While the SCS provides feedback in a quantifiable format, the blue comment sheets are an opportunity for qualitative feedback. The blue sheets provide space for open-ended feedback from students directly to their instructor. Many instructors find the blue sheets to be valuable sources of  feedback. The sheets are for your benefit solely, and distributing them is optional. The blue sheets will be returned to you, unopened, after your grades have been submitted to the Registrar. Here is a sample blue sheet.

If you would like to ask students to respond to specific open-ended questions that you devise, whether in addition to or in place of the traditional blue sheets, you may do so. However, please treat those custom comment sheets as if they were blue sheets, using the same blue envelopes and confidentiality-protecting procedures described above.

Do students take it seriously?

Williams students know that their role is to provide the best assessment they can of their learning experience. With very few exceptions Williams students take the SCS very seriously and also provide constructive feedback on the blue sheets.

First-year students receive an email alerting them in advance of the SCS, of its purposes, and its procedures. Students are encouraged to be present in class for the administration of the SCS and to respond thoughtfully and constructively to all survey items.

How was the SCS developed and who runs it?

The nature of the survey and its content are the product of faculty legislation. Quantitative, college-wide course evaluation was first tried in the spring semester of 1971.* The questionnaire was deemed valuable as one way to evaluate teaching, though the original survey with 124 questions led to the prompt decision that “a college-wide questionnaire should consist of no more than 40 items.” Regular, college-wide (but not mandatory) use of a questionnaire was approved by faculty vote in November 1972. In April 1988, the faculty passed a motion making SCS mandatory. Revisions to the SCS were made in 1992, and again in 2005.

The current SCS form and reports were developed by the 2004-05 ad hoc Committee on Student Course Evaluation and Pedagogy (CoSCEP), which consisted of 7 faculty members, the Director of Institutional Research, and the Associate Dean of the Faculty. The faculty voted to approve the current SCS bubble sheet at its May 2005 faculty meeting, and the current form was first used in 2006.

The Dean of the Faculty has overall responsibility for the evaluation process, and the Director of Institutional Research handles the distribution and collection of forms and the dissemination of results.

*The Office of Institutional Research would like to thank Eiko Maruko Siniawer, Professor of History, for her research on the origin and development of the Student Course Survey Evaluation forms.

How are the responses used?

First and foremost the SCS provides instructors with feedback regarding their courses and teaching. The faculty legislation governing the SCS provides that SCS results are made available to the appropriate department chair, the Dean of the Faculty, and at appropriate times, to members of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP). The results are considered in matters of faculty reappointment, tenure, and promotion.

Student comments on the blue sheets, on the other hand, are solely for your benefit. They are not made available to department or program chairs, the Dean of the Faculty, or the CAP for evaluation purposes.

When do I get to see the results?

Once the Registrar's office has received and posted your grades, you will be able to log into the Williams Student Records system and view your SCS reports (instructions). These reports will present a summary of the statistical data derived from the SCS forms submitted for your course. You will receive your blue sheets, unopened, through campus mail. Note that Fall 2014 is the last semester quantitative reports will be campus mailed to faculty.

I'm a department or program chair, when will I get results for my unit?

Once every member of your unit has turned in their grades, Institutional Research will campus mail a full packet of results. Please note that this can take weeks, depending on when all the grades are turned in. SCS reports for the whole unit are not yet available to chairs via the student records system.

How do I read and understand my SCS reports?

For a detailed explanation, please refer to this guide to interpreting SCS reports.

Where can I get copies of previous SCS reports?

You can view your own SCS reports going back to Spring 2007 in the Williams Student Records system. See here for instructions (pdf). If you need copies of someone else's reports, please contact Courtney Wade at Be advised that requests for an individual's SCS reports to be sent to someone else must come either from that individual or from their department or program chair.

Your questions and comments regarding any aspect of the course evaluation process are welcome. The reports are statistical in nature and it is not unusual for faculty members (new and old) to ask questions about how to interpret their reports. If you have any questions about the SCS or its process, please contact Courtney Wade, the Dean of the Faculty, or your department chair.