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PBA Home > Institutional Research & Analysis > FCQ > Distributions of FCQ Ratings > By Lower Division, Upper Division, and Graduate Sections > How to read the graphs

CU-Boulder FCQ Office: How to read the graphs of FCQ distributions

These graphs show how FCQ ratings are spread out across course sections--how many sections have average ratings of A, A-, B+, etc. One set of graphs shows FCQ course ratings, and a second set shows instructor ratings.

Each graph in a set shows the most recent year's ratings for a different type of course. The categories are based on course level (lower division undergraduate, upper division undergraduate, and graduate courses) and size (small, medium, and large sections of the undergraduate courses). The menu lets you jump right to the graph for each category; the graph's title shows you the course category and the year. You can Return to menu   easily from each graph.

The title also tells how many sections of that type of course returned FCQ forms that year, and how many of those sections are indicated by each * in the graph's columns. The number of sections indicated by a * changes from graph to graph because

  • the number of sections can be quite different in different course categories--there may be nearly a thousand sections of medium-sized lower-division courses, but only a hundred sections of Law school courses--but
  • we wanted each graph to take up no more than one screen so you could see each one's pattern easily.

The title also says that if there were less than one *'s worth of sections in a column, we left the column empty. That way every * in a graph means the same thing, so you can tell how many sections have average ratings of, say, B+ simply by counting the number of *s in the B+ column. Notice that an empty column might have no sections in it at all, or it might have up to one less than the number of sections indicated by a *. You can't tell. But you can be sure that an empty column has less than a *'s worth of sections.

Compare the shapes of the distributions for two different types of courses, or for the course and instructor ratings for the same type of course. Compare where the highest columns are--where most of the section ratings fell on the two graphs. Compare how the *s are spread out across the A-to-F scale--how far up and down the scale they go, and whether there is a tight central cluster of tall columns or a wide set of columns that are about the same height.

The statistics above each graph summarize the distribution's shape. The mean rating   reflects the pattern's central peak. The numbers 0 through 4 correspond to the ratings F (0) through A (4); an average of 3.0 is equivalent to B, 3.5 is equivalent to B+, 3.2 is a little bit less than midway between B and B+, etc. The standard deviation   is a measure of how widely the ratings were spread out--the smaller the standard deviation, the more similar the sections' ratings were and the more "tightly packed" the pattern is.

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Last revision 08/02/13


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