How would you like to tell a professor exactly what you think about them? Maybe you hate the way they use class time or read off PowerPoints all class. Maybe you do not find them well prepared, or perhaps they have changed your outlook on matters and have taught you more than anyone before.
Course Evaluations at Keene State College aim to gain a student’s perspective on courses and those who guide and teach these classes. These evaluations are anonymous and are required to be given out at the end of class towards the nearing end of the course for the semester and will soon be available online to complete for every course.
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Many students and faculty alike agree that there are problems with speeding through these.
Others feel as if this way of rating teachers does not accurately depict how good a professor really is at their job. Some feel as if professors who improve aspects of their teaching do not gain anything from these sheets of paper.
Journalism professor Mark Timney expressed that it is “important for professors and colleges to have feedback. It’s tricky, however, to design the evaluation so that it gives you good information.”
Timney went on to explain that the questions can be a bit vague and can make it hard to pinpoint problems within courses. “Sometimes questions will be asked such as ‘was the professor well informed of the subject?’…how can a student know this?” He pointed out that while some teachers may seem to know what they are doing, KSC students have no idea if they are learning what they should be learning in a given subject.
In classes across campus, one problem seems to appear quite frequently. A number of students complain about how certain professors will read off PowerPoints instead of getting the class involved in learning. “If a professor is just going to read off something I can print out online, I don’t see the need to be there,” freshman Shayne Kennedy said.
A handful of professors at KSC have degrees in their field but have not taken teaching classes. This could be an explanation for why some professors simply read off an overhead projector. Teaching classes are not required for professors. Timney also mentioned that another tricky part of evaluations is how they are “used in tendering and promoting professors.” He analyzes that professors who are demanding of students receive lower evaluations than those not as demanding at the same teaching ability. Timney believes that “faculty members who don’t know that may not understand the results of their evaluation.”
Years ago, a committee of professors made evaluations. Timney says that while these have improved, they could be even better.
Geology professor Carol Leger feels more or less the same way Timney does on the matter. Leger points out that, “The purpose of these is to help and improve courses, and that doesn’t seem to be what these questions are about.” Leger agrees that the questions are very vague and believes the hand written comments are the most important and influential questions of the entire evaluation.
She also agrees that while the evaluations have had a “mild improvement,” the questions should revolve around what improvements should be made in the classroom. Leger also made it known that she would like the questions and answers to be more specific, speaking more of how exactly professors teach their students. Chemistry professor Jeudi Davis explained that what professors are handed back after students complete these questionnaires is very different than what students see. The forms handed back to professors display the answers students give in bar-graph form, showing the majority of opinions in an averaged-out fashion. Davis explained that she pays much attention to the written comments, as they are what helps her improve the most.
“What matters to me is how you make it personalized,” she said.
A number of KSC students were interviewed on their opinions of teacher and course evaluations. Sophomore Tallie Colcord was one of the few who stated that she spends time on these sheets of paper. She details them whether she likes or dislikes the professor.
“I want them to know what they’re good or not so good on,” Colcord pointed out.
When she considered evaluations being available online, she felt that this could hurt and help the questionnaires’ cause.
“I feel like people will have more time to do it, but less people will take the time to log on,” Colcord said.
Kennedy admits he does not take much time on evaluations because he “just wants to get out of class.” Kennedy felt that the option of having these evaluations online wouldn’t make much of a difference.
“As long as it’s conveyed it doesn’t matter if it’s written or typed,” he said.
Kennedy admires the course questionnaires because he feels it allows students to give feedback where they normally could not. He also felt as if “questions help teachers design and personalize for the class.”
Kennedy admitted that while typing instead of writing may take less time and effort, he will probably not spend any more time on these evaluations online than he would if they were handed out at the end of class.
The questions regarding course evaluations seem never ending and changes evidently are still occurring. It appears as though professors will have to wait out these changes or create some changes in improving these questionnaires themselves.
As for students, answering these sheets of paper or simple clicks and typing online can help in making the most out of the KSC experience.
Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org