What can you learn from CATEI?

Numerous studies have shown that feedback based on students' actual experiences of a course and the teaching can provide valuable insights into the perceived effectiveness of their learning and teaching environment. To improve our teaching, and for students to have a good learning experience, the most useful way to think of the CATEI process is not as an administrative necessity, but as an opportunity for critical reflection and for engaging in productive dialogue with students and peers.

Evidence also supports the notion that scores obtained from instruments such as CATEI are a valid and reliable indicator of the quality of courses and teaching.

The rationale for using CATEI questionnaires is based on this understanding. Students are asked to indicate their satisfaction with those aspects of courses and teaching that have been shown by numerous research studies to create an environment that is conducive to student learning.

These aspects include:

  • effective communication—the clarity with which ideas, concepts, goals and expectations (including those relating to assessment) are explained and communicated to students
  • the capacity to stimulate students' interest in a subject and to foster a desire and willingness to learn
  • encouragement of student participation and cooperative learning
  • the capacity to facilitate understanding and the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills
  • encouragement of independent learning
  • provision of high-quality feedback to students.

If student approval of these aspects is high (strongly agree, agree and moderately agree), it indicates that students are comfortable with the learning environment that you've created. But if negative responses outweigh positive ones, we can infer something isn't working as well as it could. In this case, you would need to look closely at students' ratings of specific items and seek clues in students' responses to the two open-ended questions that have been included in each questionnaire.

Student responses to the CATEI evaluation questionnaires represent just one source of evidence about the quality of your courses and teaching. There are many other strategies you can use to gather evidence of the effectiveness of your teaching. You can also find more ideas for gaining and responding to feedback on your teaching in this document.

In some cases (for example, when insufficient information is provided, or when feedback is contradictory), you might also need to obtain more information about student responses. Alternative strategies may include:

  • talking informally to students and to the student course committee, if there is one, about how the course is progressing
  • seeking further feedback from students using structured discussion and focus group sessions
  • obtaining feedback from peers through peer observation of teaching or other forms of peer review.