Teaching Quality Survey Project

In 2017, the Center of Inquiry at Wabash College administered the Teaching Quality Survey at no cost to 10 institutions that serve historically underrepresented and/or economically disadvantaged students.  Our goal was to provide these institutions with information that could be used to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Of the ten institutions that participated, six were two-year institutions and four were four-year institutions. There were several special mission institutions in this group, including an Hispanic serving institution, a work college, and a college of art and design.


How the TQS was developed

The TQS was developed based on questions from two national longitudinal research projects, the National Study of Student Learning (NSSL) and the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education (WNSLAE). Ernest Pascarella from the University of Iowa led the NSSL, and he collaborated with us to lead the development and implementation of the second study. Combined, both studies followed thousands of students across dozens of institutions. These studies also produced well over 100 scholarly articles on the practices and conditions that promote student learning and development.

In addition to the questions that were developed and validated in these research projects, we added the “letter to Professor X” question to the TQS. This question is from the “Dear X: Letters from the Classroom” project led by the Transforming Education by Design team at the University of Oregon.


Why students’ responses on the TQS matter

The Teaching Quality Survey contains the best measures of teaching effectiveness that emerged from these earlier studies. It is designed to help institutions identify (a) strengths and weaknesses in the teaching that their students experience and (b) useful areas on which to focus professional development activities for faculty and staff.


The TQS includes three scales (groups of questions):

  • Faculty Interest in Teaching and Student Development
  • Quality of Nonclassroom Interactions with Faculty
  • Teaching Clarity and Organization


These three scales plus two additional questions about feedback can be combined to form a single, overall scale. The reliability of all the scales is high, ranging from 0.90 to 0.96.

We validated the TQS scales in the Wabash National Study by looking at whether they had a significant impact on students’ growth on 12 different outcome measures, ranging from standardized measures of critical thinking (the ACT CAAP Critical Thinking Test), moral reasoning (the Defining Issues Test), and the disposition to engage in effortful cognitive activities (the Need for Cognition Scale), to short scales that measure outcomes such as academic motivation and interest in political and social engagement. The TQS scales predicted growth on 9 of these 12 outcomes. In addition, students who had higher TQS scores were also more likely to earn higher grades, persist at their institutions, and aspire to pursue post-graduate education. The relationship of the TQS scores with these outcomes was true even after controlling for gender, race/ethnicity, major, parental education, entering academic preparation, and other good practices (such as those measured by NSSE). In our view, the Teaching Quality Survey measures the strongest good practice from the Wabash National Study. It also measures an aspect of student experience that other widely available surveys of good practice do not measure.


Our purpose in sponsoring the fall 2017 TQS project

We wanted the Wabash National Study to create knowledge and resources that would benefit all higher education institutions, not just those who participated in the study. The Wabash National Study was supported by generous philanthropy, and we wanted to pay it forward with the TQS project so other institutions could benefit from the findings of the study. To that end, we offered the TQS at no cost to a small number of community colleges and special mission institutions that serve students who have, traditionally, been underserved by postsecondary education. For this project, we defined “special mission institutions” as historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and schools where at least 40% of the undergraduates were Pell eligible. We offered this survey as a community service to honor the many faculty, staff, administrators, and students who supported the Wabash National Study.


Survey details

The Teaching Quality Survey takes approximately 5–10 minutes to complete and can be administered to students in any class year. There are two versions of the survey, one for two-year institutions and one for four-year institutions.

Anyone may use or adapt this survey to help improve the quality of teaching and learning at their institution, as long as they cite the source of their work and do not charge for the survey.

We are doing a pilot project with the Teaching Quality Survey in 2016–2017

In this, a limited number of community colleges, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs), other special mission institutions, and institutions that focus on serving students with significant financial need can administer the Teaching Quality Survey free of charge.

For information about this project, please contact

Charles Blaich or Kathy Wise.