Last week, Student Senate passed a bill to alter the current course evaluation structure in order to elicit more qualitative responses from students and, in turn, aid faculty in utilizing results to improve overall course objectives and methods.
Course evaluations are meant to be a means to interpret students’ feedback on their experiences with an instructor. Students evaluate their professor in the classroom, class materials and learning objectives, and outcomes for individual courses.
Some students involved with SGA think that the current course evaluation form offered to students does not effectively gauge responses. It is also unclear exactly how the information gathered is currently being used.
“Students and faculty alike have all raised serious concerns about the effectiveness and use of course evaluations,” said SGA President Ryan Specht. “We receive numerous complaints annually regarding course evaluations, and so we have taken action to take proactive steps and form a joint ad-hoc committee with Faculty Senate to address the issue.”
The proposal passed through Student Senate and is being sent on to the Academic Affairs Committee and Faculty Senate to address the issues holistically.
“By presenting this proposal, we have basically started a conversation with faculty,” said Katie Cronmiller, SGA vice president elect. “We have sent the plan to a joint committee that is made up of both students and faculty.”
The proposed alterations include a variety of suggestions aimed to help students better express their responses and help instructors improve their course layout and teaching styles based on the responses they receive.
It is proposed that the current scale be reversed, making one represent “strongly disagree” and five represent “strongly agree.” Many students have reported filling out the evaluation incorrectly and this is aimed to clear up confusion.
The changes also include rephrasing of questions and asking additional questions such as, “did you gain interest in the material after enrolling in the class?” and “do you feel this grade accurately reflects your performance in the class?” These questions aim to elicit a deeper response from students beyond generalities.
Another suggestion is to provide a more obvious space for an open-ended writing response. Clarifying this will help instructors receive more personalized, course-specific, feedback.
SGA is not currently being sent the results of the evaluations, which is a contrast to the introduction on the current form. It is suggested that students would feel their input is more valuable if they were made aware of how the data is being collected and used.
“Overall, the goal here is to create a better instrument to evaluate how courses are taught to provide the best learning experience possible,” Cronmiller said. “This evaluation is going to be a more qualitative, organized, system.”
These changes are aimed to benefit both students and faculty in the long run.
“Evaluations are a key tool for tenure and promotion for faculty,” Specht said. “If we are assessing our faculty better, we will be able to not only address more effectively faculty who are not excelling in the classroom, but we will also be able to reward the best faculty by measuring their successes better.”
Now that the topic of these alterations has been broached, the discussion can continue and allow for changes to possibly be implemented during the next academic year.