EDITORIAL: Evaluations give you a voice -- so use it
Our View: Completing course evaluations offers students a method to influence future classes and show respect for past classes.
There was a time, long ago, before the convenience of smartphone and laptop evaluations when students had to fill out course evaluations with pen and paper. The professor would leave the room while the class would complete ratings and comments. It is hard to believe now, but there was even a time when course evaluations did not exist in any form.
Before the implementation of student-centered course evaluations, students had limited avenues for expressing appreciation or derision for a professor or course. Students in past years had to fight for the ability to critique the performance of a professor. Giving course evaluations is a right that did not come easily, and each student can respect the past efforts of students at OU by filling out course evaluations in a serious, comprehensive manner.
Every semester, OU professors, staff and administrators urge students to participate in course evaluations, but these efforts should not be necessary. Students should be excited to offer feedback because it allows for direct participation by students in the educational process.
When you fill out an evaluation, the professor and the administrators in that department analyze and evaluate it by the next year.
Both parties deeply analyze the feedback offered by students to determine changes for course material and instruction strategies. Evaluations also are used in the tenure and hiring process for current and future faculty.
Evaluations are not perfect. In a book on the topic, Peter Sacks (Pseudonym) offers extensive evidence that over-reliance on student evaluations for tenure considerations encourages teachers to lower standards.
In another study, an actor portrayed a fictional education expert, who gave an enthusiastic, but intentionally poor presentation to a group of professional educators. Despite the inconsistencies, the audience gave the energetic imposter high evaluation marks.
While some analysis highlights the pitfalls of course evaluations, the majority opinion remains positive. Analysis comparing student evaluations with evaluations conducted by professors finds student evaluations are more reliable.
The potential for inconsistency underscores the necessity for accurate and in-depth evaluations. Students must engage in the evaluation process. Teachers and staff who look at the evaluations can tell the difference between a reasonable, coherent suggestion and a petty complaint.
Suggestions for filing out evaluations:
•Take time on the numerical responses, don’t just give all 1s or 5s
•Look over your class notes for specific problems and suggestions
•Whenever possible, balance criticism with praise
•Talk about the course material, not just the professor
•Spend at least 20 minutes on each evaluation
If you follow these steps, you will produce a strong, coherent evaluation that professors will be more likely to pay attention to.
But students are not the only ones that need to pay attention to evaluations. If they are filled out in an effective manner, professors ought to give significant weight to the suggestions of students.
Despite the criticisms listed above, professors should use student course evaluations to plan and adjust course material and information presentation strategies. It is not necessary for professors to dumb down course material to conform to student desires, but it is important for professors to adjust teaching strategies to facilitate learning.
Help future students, support faculty and show respect for past efforts by immediately filling out your course evaluations.