The course evaluation makeover that we all need and deserve

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Kore Chan/File

The end of a course always comes with the same recipe for closure: There’s the reliable last-ditch effort for participation points, the nearly late final project submission and the good old course evaluation. We appreciate these evaluations, and not just because they present the perfect opportunity to waste 15 minutes of class time — the quality control that is implied by the evals is important, but the questions they pose are far from perfect. Luckily, the Clog is here to shine a light on the important questions that should be asked. Take notes, Chancellor Christ. 

Current evaluations aim to collect professor feedback with statements that concern the instructor’s performance in explaining concepts and encouraging students. While these inquiries are relevant, they are poorly tailored to appraise professors’ true abilities. Rather than asking students to consider whether “the instructor explained concepts clearly,” the survey should ask, “Approximately how many times did you have to ask your neighbor what subject the professor was teaching during lecture?” Similarly, a more effective question to gauge instructor ability would be to ask how many times the professor needed assistance with the document camera or technology in the classroom.

The course-related questions of evaluations consider the organization of classes and student development, but fail to determine how mind-numbingly boring a course was. Rather than inquiring about the organization, evaluations should aim to determine how engaging classes were with more relevant questions. For instance:

“How many times a day did you calculate how many minutes were left in lecture? How many YouTube videos did you watch in the back of Wheeler during class? Were you willing to attend discussion when it was raining outside? How many Friday afternoon classes did you skip? If the Campanile was on fire and the only way to save it was to attend class for three weeks straight, would we be building a new clock tower?”

Last but not least, the GSI evaluations are in desperate need of a makeover. All of the “student information questions” that are a part of the current survey can be replaced by the simple question, “Do you know your GSI’s last name?” This would immediately establish how engaged students were throughout the semester. Any student who is unable to recall their GSI’s full name paid minimal attention during the first day of class, and we all know that it only goes downhill from there. 

Contact Amanda Chung at [email protected].