This article has two parts: Part A- A brief introduction to the value of student evaluations and a few tips for motivating students to complete the student evaluations and Part B- A step-by-step set of recommendations for ways of engaging the interest of students and approaching the evaluations as a professional development tool for faculty. These strategies, potentially, can impact positively the number of student evaluations completed for your courses. Professors Joseph Kwame Gyan from Business and Sonia Maldondado from Education were invited to write for this piece because they have some of the highest student evaluation completion rates among campus faculty.
Part A: Student Evaluations of Faculty
Joseph Kwame Gyan, Business Department
Student evaluation is very important for both students and the faculty members because the process aids the faculty in the improvement and delivery of their lessons. For the student, the process gives them a voice in evaluating their faculty as well as helping the faculty member become a better teacher.
There are two strategies which I use:
- Before the evaluation period, I stress to my students the importance of their feedback in helping me to be a better teacher. I remind them that with their feedback, I am encouraged to try new methods of teaching.
- During the evaluation period, I generally request laptops from Tech Support to be delivered to my classes so that they can complete the evaluation forms in the classroom.
Part B: Things I Have Learned about Students’ Evaluations
Sonia Maldonado, Assistant Professor, Education
Before the evaluation:
- Students must recognize the process of evaluating our courses as their right. This should be emphasized during the semester.
- Explain to your students the importance of giving you feedback about the course. Our students must understand why our courses should go through this process.
- Most students do not understand the impact of these evaluations in our career, so please take your time to explain to them the importance of the evaluation in your development as a teacher and for your institution.
- In order for students to understand what elements of the class will be evaluated, take some time prior to the evaluation to explain how the objectives of your course have been met and the topics that you have not been able to discuss yet. This will help them to focus on the knowledge they have acquired based on what you have established in your syllabus. Remember that the syllabus is a contract between both parts: the students and the teacher.
- Also, let your students know that the feedback they provide will be anonymous and that there is no way to know who has given it.
- Make sure your students understand to focus more on your performance as a teacher rather than focusing on you as a person.
During the evaluation:
- Inform your students that during that time they can provide either positive or negative feedback about the course but also explain the difference between positive, negative and constructive feedback. Do not be afraid of having negative comments in your evaluations. Be afraid of not having at least one negative feedback and also be concerned if more than half of your students are not satisfied with the course. If that is the case, ask for advice to any of your colleagues that has demonstrated effective teaching strategies. Also, approach key students in your class that might be willing to share more detailed feedback about your teaching efficacy. Having positive feedback is not a consequence of lowering your course standards, on the contrary, positive feedback can also help to create more meaningful classes.
- Give your students a due date to complete the evaluation and ask them to take a picture of the submission confirmation and post it in a folder you create on Blackboard/Assignment.
- If you can, reserve the Computers on Wheels (COW) for your class period or ask your students to complete the evaluation in your classroom by using their smart phones. The process will not take more than 15 minutes so leave the room and ask one of them to tell you when they have finished.
- Always emphasize to your students that this evaluation is one of their rights and as such it should be exercised, give them at least two points for taking the time to complete the evaluation and for providing you feedback on how to be a more effective teacher.
As a reminder, when developing your course/s always take into account your students’ needs. Develop exercises and assignments that are congruent with their reality and they will be more connected with you as well as with your course.