The results are in for changes to course evaluations after student input

The Teaching Evaluation Task Force presented official changes to course evaluations at the Senate meeting last Wednesday after a series of town halls and meetings with various student groups on campus.

Changes to come include ending numerical ratings, asking more relevant questions, implementing a midterm student review and a faculty reflection each term.

These changes are scheduled to be voted on at the University Senate meeting this coming Wednesday.

If passed, they will be in effect in fall 2018.

According to Sierra Dawson, co-chair of the task force and Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, updates to the changes are posted regularly to the Provost web page.

Last May, the Senate created the teaching evaluation task force to redesign evaluations after a study came out citing them to be biased against race and gender and not effective in evaluating instructors.  

“We want to make sure that we give faculty and instructors useful feedback about how to improve their teaching, and we are concerned that the existing evaluations don’t actually do that,” said Bill Harbaugh the Senate VP and Teaching Evaluation Task Force co-chairman.

The task force took feedback from students at the town halls and adjusted some of the language and wording of the changes.

For example, they changed the wording in the proposal to include online courses as well and not just in-person classes.

According to Dawson, they also visited 11 student groups over last fall and winter term, including the Women of Color Coalition, the Sexual Wellness Student Advocacy Team and the Graduate Student Board.

After hearing their feedback, the Teaching Evaluation Task Force created a midterm student evaluation for students to anonymously provide feedback while they are still in the class.   

“If you’re in a class and there are some things that need improvement, it might be nice to be able to communicate that early,” Dawson said.

The task force piloted some of the new evaluation tools, such as the midterm review, over last winter term. They will continue a series of pilots through spring and summer terms as well before they are officially launched this fall.

Another change is the wording of the questions themselves, according to Dawson.

“I don’t think we’ve been asking students the right questions. It’s hard to give good feedback when you are not being prompted with especially excellent questions,” Dawson said.

Samples of the questions are listed on the provost webpage.

“The goal is for it to be as transparent as possible,” Dawson said.

These changes are in line with national discussions about course evaluations. Other universities across the country are interested in these changes, including UCLA which Dawson will be meeting with to share insights about the university’s changes.

“We’re kind of on the cutting edge here for doing work and being ahead of the game and making the changes rather than waiting and watching what others are doing,” Dawson said.


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Hannah Kanik

Hannah Kanik

Hannah Kanik is a News Reporter. She is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Political Science and loves coffee and classic movies.