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Value the student evaluation forms

May 6th, 2010

At the end of each semester, every professor distributes course evaluation forms to all of their classes. These forms are filled out by the students and put in a sealed envelope that is taken to the department chair. From there, each department can choose how the forms are used for the improvement of the courses. 

In some departments, every teacher is responsible for designing their own course evaluation forms. In others, the faculty comes up with the surveys as a department. Because of the loose formatting standards for these surveys across the board, there is a lack of uniformity between classes and between departments.

These evaluations are very important to curricular design, but there are a number of fundamental problems that must be addressed before they can be an effective meterstick of a course’s success.

The first major problem is how seriously students fill out the evaluations. The professors use the students’ criticism and recommendations to further develop their courses. If the students do not take the surveys seriously, then the professors will not have any constructive suggestions to work with. 

This problem can be addressed if the evaluations themselves are restructured. Currently, there are no universal criteria to which the surveys must conform, leaving some departments with very ineffective evaluation forms. The University must institute standards that clearly outline what the forms must include; this will create a much more effective measure of how well the courses are received by the students. 

The Boler School of Business serves as a good model for effective course evaluations. We believe that they should be commended for their thorough collections and analysis of their feedback. 

The Boler School uses two types of criteria. The first is quantitative, giving students a series of questions that can be answered on a scale of one to five. The next criterion is qualitative, asking specific questions about the professor and how the class was conducted. 

The quantitative information is processed and analyzed to come up with a concrete list of how effective their courses are and which areas they need to improve. The qualitative responses are given to the professors so they can revise their individual classes as necessary.

The other schools should conform their surveys to the Boler School model. Uniform class evaluation forms would provide a more comprehensive analysis of the classes. We also believe that a central office for review  is a necessary facet of the evaluation process.