At some point in the Contemporary Pedagogy class, we discussed the value of the end of the semester class surveys, or course evaluations. Some of the themes analyzed included the degree of honest responses from students, and the value of having them only at the end of the semester. Some of my conclusions: 1) when surveys are completed at the end of the semester, responses are more likely to be influenced by a student’s final grade. 2) a mid-semester survey, or earlier, could be more beneficial to make adjustments impacting students taking the class in the current term, hence probably more honest student responses. 3) bad reviews from bad students and excellent reviews from great students in respect to the teacher. So, is there a real value to conduct an end of the semester course evaluation?
The question about the usefulness of course evaluations is not new, and multiple tools to apply them have been developed. In “Can the Student Course Evaluation Be Redeemed?” (2015), Dan Berrett provided some examples of different surveys that have been used by multiple institutions, and responses from different higher education players about the value of such evaluations, with pros and cons being expressed. I invite you to read his article for a better insight, but if you trust my judgement, here is my take on the topic after reading it: developing a good course evaluation is not easy, but if you find the way to gage teaching effectiveness in a survey, you might have a good business opportunity in front of you.
I think professors should ask students to evaluate them more often so that changes can be made on the run, if necessary. However, if performed, questions have to be carefully thought, and the teacher must be prepared to make changes, or better don’t promise any changes, and just act accordingly to the outcome of the evaluation, and on reasonable requests. At the same time, self-evaluation by students should occur as well, after all a good learning environment requires both ends to be fully engaged. If students consider that they are not achieving the class objectives, they should be critical about their fault on that part. This could be achieved with open questions after exams, or after exams are returned. I don’t recall as a student taking time to reflect in what I was doing wrong, and sometimes just continued the same trend, although certainly a bad grade would force me to rethink my approach.
Now, weather a bad grade in a exam is indication of not learning and not achieving the objective, that is another matter…after all it is hard to base everything on a single grade.