Course Evaluations: Are They Effective?

by Caroline Brandon

Photo Credit: Horia Varlan

by Caroline Brandon
assistant opinions editor

If you haven’t noticed, it is course evaluation week. Some students look forward to this week for the opportunity to waste 20 minutes of class time contemplating the evaluation, while others relish the opportunity to exact revenge on a dissatisfactory professor, seizing the chance to unleash fury through bubbling in low numbers and writing frantically about why they feel discontented with the course.

I’ll admit, I’ve done it. But the next semester when I (and likely several other students) see said professor walking on campus, I begin wondering, “If I gave this professor a horrible evaluation, did it make a difference? Do higher-ups and administrators actually consider the course evaluations in their decisions about who should go and who should stay?” I think most students hope the evaluations factor into such decisions to some degree.

I think students would also agree that we hope our professors look at our reviews and use them to consider what changes they could make in their teaching styles going forward. I am in an education class this semester, and many educators feel that self-evaluation is a key element to being a successful teacher.

But what about the problem of the professor who has been in a tenure position for quite some time? A horrible review will not affect his or her position in any way. Luckily, I have never been faced with this dilemma, so I can only imagine the frustration a student would feel.

The only thing I can say is that I hope our faculty do take our evaluations seriously in a way that allows them to reflect on their teaching methods. If they do not consider the impact of their teaching style, students are likely to stray away from their classes. Of course, this option does not exist for all courses. Sure, we all want to get a good grade, but that is not the only factor that influences our evaluations.

Personally, I believe if a professor is willing to work with me and really push me to understand the material being covered, I have no problem receiving a grade lower than an “A.” However, if a professor simply fails to teach in a manner conducive to the class mastering the content, I think there is a serious flaw in their teaching method. Evaluations should reflect such, and those with oversight should take appropriate action.

I suppose the only thing we as students can do is to keep fervently filling out those course evaluations, and hope the evaluations are taken as seriously as the administration says they are.

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