May 022012
 
Authors: Austin Briggs

For most students, one time-honored end of the semester ritual, in addition to caffeine-fueled cramming sessions in the library, is filling out instructor evaluations during the last few weeks of class.

And whether you race to finish the evaluation before darting out of class or spend time contemplating each question, the end results are the same – the data is compiled by the University Testing Center and the results are posted online for anyone with a CSU eID to view.

This came as a surprise to graduate English education student Aubrey Johnson.

“I never knew that information was available,” Johnson said. “That would be nice to know because if you’re looking for a specific kind of teacher or course, or if you’ve heard bad things about a professor, you can find out more about them and make up your mind.”

Last year some instructors reported they didn’t get reviews back or that the results were lost or mixed up.

Mike Palmquist, the associate vice-provost of the Institute for Learning and Teaching, said a new system with upgraded software had been put in place last spring and with it came a few technical and human errors that have since been corrected.

He said the biggest issue was students leaving the course reference number section blank and there were also problems with legibility. Students were using a pencil or light colored ink pen to fill out the comments section-when they were scanned, the comments became illegible.

Palmquist said approximately 80,000 evaluations are scanned by hand each semester. He’s confident all the kinks have been worked out and this semester will go smoothly.

“The number of problematic forms last semester was one half of one percent,” he said. “Everyone’s more aware of filling out the CRN plus we’re using cover sheets for each class.”

Faculty council chairman Tim Gallagher stressed that only the numerical summaries are publicly available online. The written comments are accessible only to the instructor of the course.

And while it varies by department, many instructors have the option to open up student comments and feedback for review by department heads or promotions and tenure committees.

“Although it is optional, most faculty members in our department choose to submit the comments students made for review,” said Diane Margolf, the chair of CSU’s history department.

Gallagher said the primary purpose of the evaluations is to help individual faculty members learn what was working in the classroom and what wasn’t.

“We want to improve the classroom experience for the students,” he said. “That’s our primary goal.”

The publicly available summary statistics are also factored in for each instructors annual performance review. According to Gallagher, every instructor is evaluated once a year by their department head in the areas of teaching, research and service. The student evaluations would fall under the teaching review.

“It’s factored in, but they (the department head) would not be allowed to use that information as the only basis for the evaluation of teaching,” Gallagher said. “They need to look at other things in addition to that.”

Another question that is often raised includes whether or not you have to put your name on the evaluation form. According to the faculty council manual, “anonymous letters or comments shall not be used to evaluate teaching, except with the consent of the instructor or as authorized in a department’s code.”

Sue Pendell, the department chair for the university’s communication studies department, said leaving your name off wouldn’t prevent the evaluation from being digitized and tabulated, but “whether or not a faculty member reads the evaluation is another issue.”

Palmquist said that without a signature, the comments section probably wouldn’t be used in tenure or promotion considerations for the instructor.

Collegian writer Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Problems with course evaluations last year:
-Instructors not receiving evaluations
-Results lost or mixed up
-Students leaving the course reference number section blank
-Problems with legibility

 Posted by at 3:55 pm

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