Students Reflect on First Semester Courses
by Hannah Hoffman on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Over this past month and during this last week especially, students have been anxious about grades and comments. However, students are not the only members of the community who have opinions to be stressed about.
In many classes, students are sent course evaluations regarding their teachers and the departments as a whole. Teachers are expected to take students’ opinions and criticism into consideration in order to improve their courses and teaching style. “If a lot of people say one thing [in a course evaluation], the teacher for that course should do what the evaluations say,” articulates an anonymous student. However, a few students have not seen a change in their respective courses after submitting evaluations. Jacob Aronoff (IV) revealed, “[After course evaluations,] I saw that my teachers kept teaching the way they were comfortable.”
Alternatively, Santiago Vivar Junior (III), who received course evaluations in four of his classes, stated, “the teachers want to make the course enjoyable as well as educational, so student requests are frequently taken into consideration. There was a change in our learning dynamic — teachers did just enough with our evaluations, because going by a curriculum created or recommended by students won’t get much done.”
Santiago also commended the questions asked on his evaluations. “The questions did cover what someone needed to tell the teacher.” Another source who requested to remain anonymous believes “[The questions on] an evaluation allow us to express what we think is good and bad in a course, and that is vital for an improvement.”
Some teachers are not very pleased with the evaluations their departments offer students. Mr. Archer, a Classics teacher, says, “We’ve been trying to put more structure [into our evaluations,] but it’s been haphazard. I’m not sure the questions get to enough, [though] I’m impressed with the thought that students put into them.”
On the other hand, teachers in the Math department believe they have been successfully improving their department’s evaluation system. “The Math department pioneered a new system this year that we had never used before” says Mr. Simonson. The department put the evaluations online and made sure that every student in each course filled out the survey. All responses were submitted anonymously. “As a result [of this new system], we had over a ninety percent response rate, which is really impressive because most [of our old] surveys had a thirty percent response rate. The key is ensuring a high response rate. The worst kinds of surveys are the ones where filling it out is completely optional,” articulates Mr. Simonson.
In previous years, each teacher did his or her own evaluation; however, the Math teachers thought they would try offering all their students the same survey this school year. They met as a department, and came up with roughly ten questions to ask students. Mr. Simonson states, “We did it in a way that was fair to the students but also meaningful in the data it gave us. With all our data combined, we saw what we were doing well with and what we were struggling with, and we were pretty harsh on ourselves. Individually, I certainly tried that very week to ask my students about the survey. I always try to make an action plan after I do surveys and then I try to implement it in the following weeks. As a department we discussed it and then individually we had our own ways to implement those suggestions. We like this system a lot.”
While the true effectiveness of course evaluations has yet to be accurately determined, the academic departments’ attempts to self-improve through criticism and praise is certainly a step in the right direction.
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