Part 9: Spring 2019 Labs

178 Analyzing Your Course – 05.07.2019

How can you reflect on your course to improve it? At the May 7, 2019 Teaching Effectively in Canvas session, seven participants carved room in their finals week schedules for a guided exploration of Canvas analytics, student evaluations, and self-reflection to determine what worked (and what didn’t). Attendees shared tips on how to unpack the teaching experience for actionable takeaways for student-centered course delivery and design.


  • Get thoughtful student feedback! Demonstrate to students that their evaluative input is heard and valued. To earn their trust, try an early-semester reflection, after which you share their responses and changes you will make as a result. Likewise, communicate aspects of the course you cannot or do not want to change (and why) so students understand the rationale.
  • Include time at the beginning of class for students to complete evaluations. Doing so will help them feel less rushed and take the time to provide thoughtful feedback.
  • Try a peer evaluation to get the perspective of another instructor. Pose a specific aspect of the classroom (e.g. transitions) or a particular trouble spot (getting students to stay on task during discussions) for observation to prioritize their attention.
  • Use descriptive analytics (describe the current state) to determine students’ prior knowledge and how much background and scaffolding to incorporate into instruction. Use predictive analytics (past and present data predicting what will happen next) to track students who may struggle and intervene with support before they fall behind.
  • Look for indicators that something is working well or not working well. Are students asking the right kinds of questions? Is talk on task? How many emails are you receiving with clarification questions? These cues can point you in the right direction if an area of instruction needs attention.
  • When trying something new, inform the students. They are more likely to be forgiving and willing to offer feedback. Enlisting them in figuring out new processes also gives them agency in their learning.

For more information on analyzing your course, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Teaching Effectively in Canvas is a Faculty Engagement program designed to highlight experiences of UW-Madison instructors in the Canvas learning environment and to dig into solutions to challenges faced. In these responsive sessions, participants put forth questions and needs they’d like to see addressed, hear practical ways that other instructors use Canvas, connect teaching practices to evidence-based learning research, and learn how to access and apply resources that can guide them beyond the session.

Canvas topics are also regularly address throughout the semester in Active Teaching Labs. Sign up for Active Teaching Lab announcements by sending an email to


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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