52 Reflections Project

A weekly journal of my thoughts and experiences in education

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  • 13 – Course Evaluations

    Posted by selfwalker on June 7, 2007

    Recently, I was given the results from my student evaluations. These came from the spring semester of 2007 and both classes were College Algebra. The evaluation consists of 19 questions and students are given 5 choices to respond on each question. The possible responses are strongly disagree, disagree, undecided, agree, and strongly agree. Since this was my fourth semester teaching, I have gone through this evaluations process four times. Now, I want to think critically about the questions on this evaluation because I question how these evaluations can provide insights about my teaching. But maybe the purpose of the evaluation is only to allow students an opportunity to express their thoughts about the class? Therefore I should examine the questions and see what possible thoughts I could receive from the evaluations.

    Question #1: Overall, I would rate this instructor as excellent.

    For those students that responded with disagree does this meant that they feel that I am not quite excellent, such as good or great? Or do they feel that I am terrible? If the students agreed, then what does excellent mean? The issue with question is that it is set up to be all or nothing. I am either excellent or not. Perhaps a student could first define an “excellent instructor”. Then I could easily see how I am or not meeting their definition.

    Question #2: Overall, I would rate this course as excellent.

    Again, the question is very vague and it does not allow a proper critique of my classroom. I doubt that if McDonald’s was taking a survey they would ask, “Overall, I would rate McDonald’s as excellent.” Their questions would be clear and to the point. Therefore, a definition of excellent classroom is certainly needed. Maybe another series of questions could be this. What type of learning style do you believe you are? How do you think this class is reaching your learning style? How do you think this class is not reaching your learning style? Questions like these could possibly expose the strengths and weaknesses of my classroom, thus giving me specific areas to improve.

    Question #3: I learned a great deal in this course.

    This College Algebra course consists mostly of material that students have already seen in high school. So if a student does strongly disagree with this question, then they could be responding from the fact that they already knew the information being taught. Or their disagreement could be rooted in a lack of growth in understanding. I suggest that there be a question that asks the student how much of the material they were already familiar with. Plus, the phrase a “great deal” is different for many.

    Question #4: The instructor had a valuable influence on me while in college.

    Is this possible during just one semester? For those students that agreed, I would have to question them how. If I was truly to be an influence while their in college, I would still be impacting them even after completing my class. I say this because if someone is to have an influence on another, then the greatest influence is when that individual is on not there to motivate or pressure them. I think the question should take out “in college” and replace it with “attending the course”. Also, I am curious of what valuable influences I making on my students. Having them make a list of valuable influences would allow me to gain a deeper understanding of what I am doing in the classroom has the greatest impact.

    Question #5: The instructor made class stimulating and challenging.

    I like this question because one of my goals is to create a class that is stimulating and challenging for students and myself. However, I wonder how many students view challenging as impossible or too hard? Again, I am running into how subjective these questions are. Is it possible to write a fill in the blank evaluation that is not subjective? YES! But, that could involve re-writing the entire evaluation, which I am thinking may not be too bad of an idea.

    Question #6: The instructor met class as scheduled.

    Finally, a question clear and to the point. I had to laugh though when I saw that one student marked strongly disagree, another marked disagree, and also one for undecided. I did miss one class due to the birth of my son and I showed up to class a minute or so late a couple of times. Yet does my attendance warrant a strongly agree or agree? Well, 58\% (25/43) of my students marked agree. This percentage makes me question just how different is the response “agree” from “strongly agree”. Maybe I should lump these responses into three categories: no, I don’t know, and yes. Let us go back to the student that marked strongly disagree. A response like this, one that make no sense, reveals a possible instance of a student not reading the questions and simply filling in circles randomly. How often does this happen? Should these evaluations be voluntary? Not requiring students might take care of those who do not want to offer any input. Or if the evaluations had open response questions, it would deter students from just filling in circles randomly. Another possibility is that students feel that their opinions will not be heard or that they will not be respected.

    I have only examined 6 of the 19 questions but looking at the other 13, I feel that the points stated above would be repeated. The thing is that I have already gathered input, concerning the class, from students all through semester. At the half way point, students wrote a one page, single spaced reflection about the class. This assignment had a huge impact on how I taught the rest of the semester and I feel that students felt like they were being heard. However, these evaluations offer little guidance on how I could improve my class or what I should keep doing. Maybe I am taking these evaluations too serious and I am trying to use in way that they were not intended. I guess they could be part of a procedure that is required by the university. This is fine. But why not optimize the evaluations, or in other words, kill two birds with one stone? I believe that we should use the evaluations to their greatest potential with our students so that we as educators can be at or beyond our greatest potential.

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    2 Responses to “13 – Course Evaluations”

    1. […] Luke Walsh’s analysis of his evaluations is excellent reading. […]

    2. katie said

      I think these types of evaluations could be useful to someone somehow, but I’m not sure who or how! I think you need to consider the goal of an evaluation and then plan the questions carefully, and I don’t know if asking for student opinion on the excellence of a teachers really tells the excellence of a teacher.

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