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Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research

Adding Additional Questions to SIRS

Instructors now have the capability to add questions to the online Student Instructional Ratings Survey for their own course section. See below for instructions.

These instructions are for surveys hosted on Sakai.

If your course survey is in the new Blue system
- please follow the Blue instructions.

The Sakai survey system has a pool of existing questions that you can choose to use, or you may design your own. Instructors may add different types of questions, i.e., ratings scale, open ended, etc. At the present time each instructor may add a maximum of 10 questions, but we recommend five or fewer additional questions. Questions 1 – 14 on the standard survey cannot be changed.

Departments must submit the NetID of their instructors to CTAAR (in addition to the usual information we request) in order to give their instructors access to this new feature. Each semester, CTAAR will contact the departments in early in the term asking for the information needed. Without NetIDs, instructors will not be able to access their survey in Sakai.

In general, the instructor of each course section designated to be surveyed by their department will have the opportunity to add questions approximately one week before the survey start date (see the SIRS procedures and deadlines for more information). Instructors of 7 week courses or courses on alternate schedules should contact please replace &rdqu;brokenmail&ldqua; with for additional information.

If you find you cannot type into the question box, please use the “All Surveys” in the left-hand column of the “My Workspace” tab.

To add additional questions to your SIRS:

  1. All questions must be added in the week prior to the survey start date. Questions cannot be changed after the survey begins.
  2. Go to the survey page in Sakai - (link will open in a new tab) and click “All Surveys” in the left-hand column of the “My Workspace” tab . Please use a computer or laptop - at this time, the screen for adding questions will not load correctly on a phone or tablet.
  3. Click the survey that you wish to edit. Note that if there is more than one instructor for your course, you will see the other instructors’ surveys in your list but you can only add questions to your own survey. You will only see surveys if your department provided us with your NetID by the due date (see above).
  4. At the bottom of your survey form, click the “enable” button. This will cause your survey to reload.
  5. Scroll again to the bottom of your survey, choose the question type from the menu, and click “Add”. We recommend the “Rating Scale” or “Free text” types for consistency with SIRS. You will also see an item that Sakai calls “expert”, these are commonly used questions that you may find useful (preview the list of questions here). See below for more information regarding question design.
    question types
  6. Type the text of your question. For “rating scale” (likert scale) questions, it is best to avoid compound sentences. Simple statements or questions will help clarify the student responses. See below for more information regarding question design.
  7. For consistency with other SIRS questions, choose any of the 5-point scales that have the lower, more negative answer on the left (the order of the options is specified in parenthesis after the scale title). On the SIRS form, most questions are modeled on the second option, titled “5 pt - Agree disagree scale”. This is highlighted in the image below.
    scale choices
  8. After selecting the scale, you will see a “Display Settings” section. We recommend using the “Compact” setting (this is the best option if students are using their phones to complete the survey), and placing a checkmark next to “N/A (not applicable)” (for online surveys, the “N/A” option is the functional equivalent of a pencil eraser and allows students to remove errant choices).
    display options
  9. Click “Save Item”, and repeat the process to add additional questions.
  10. If you need to edit a question that you have already added, click the pencil icon located to the far right of the question, or click the red X to delete it.
    Image: editing existing questions


Designing your own questions

The Student Instructional Ratings Survey is intended to assist faculty in collecting information from students about their teaching and their courses, and the statistical summary of responses are shared with the student population at the SIRS Results web site. Additional questions should be consistent with that purpose.

Questions already available in Sakai: The survey tool has a number of questions already in the system. These can be found under the “expert” option (see point five above) (Although Sakai calls these “expert questions”, it is best to consider them as commonly used, best-practice questions). You can browse a preview list of the available questions.

Remember, if you add many extra questions, students may not complete them, i.e. “survey fatigue”. You can currently add a maximum of 10 additional questions, however we recommend no more than 5.

When designing your own questions for surveys, you should decide what is the main issue to be addressed by the question. Make your questions specific. Each concept or idea to be addressed should be in a separate question.

When using structured questions, use appropriate scales with a “Neutral” or “N/A” or “Not Sure” choice. Failing to include such an option presents ambiguity to the students. Give them a clear set of choices

Be consistent with use of scales. The sirs form uses A five point scale. If you choose to use a different scale, e.g. seven point, then use that consistently for the questions that you design.

Open-ended questions should address one concept or idea at a time.

Don’t overuse the open-ended questions. This can lead to survey fatigue, unclear responses, or responses that are redundant or too brief to be useful.

Additional Resources on question design:



Please contact CTAAR (848) 932-7466 please replace brokenmail with with any questions or if you would like to discuss question design.


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