The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Student evaluations benefit everyone

4 min read
By ASHLEIGH GRIM Staff Writer The course evaluations are one of the primary ways that the student get to express how they feel about a class and their professors.

Bernard Tuck | Unsplash


Staff Writer

When student class evaluations roll around at the end of the semester, most professors have to beg and set aside class time for students to fill them out, so that they can obtain the information that shapes their classes for future semesters. Students should take these evaluations more seriously.

The course evaluation consists of two types of questions. The first couple are about the professor- were they prepared and organized, did they have clear criteria for grading, and did they return their responses in a timely manner? The second round of questions are based on the student’s experience in the class: did you learn something, were you engaged in the class material, and were you prompted to think critically about the material? These questions not only give the instructors useful feedback, but are used to determine department success and promotions for the faculty.

“I make changes to my courses based on student feedback,” said Dr. Marie McAllister, professor of English.

According to the UMW web page for Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness, the results of course evaluations may be used in both faculty annual performance and the application for promotion and tenure. While the evaluations play a large role in how professors shape their lesson plans, these evaluations also play a large role in their future positions at the University.

Content matter and the way courses are run all can be affected by the evaluations. Professors do admit some of the flaws in the evaluations, but ultimately see them as a positive resource to use.

“Students evaluations are sometimes useful and sometimes they are not. I have used student evaluations to change the proportion of my class dedicated to lecture versus discussion and to re-evaluate whether certain assignments worked,” said psychology professor Dr. Miriam Liss. “The best student evaluations are those with useful constructive feedback or specific praise about what worked well or how they benefited from certain assignments. Of course, general praise is lovely as well.”

Not only do the evaluations give professors useful information on what did and did not work, it gives encouragement that the work they are assigning is useful and that their students are actually enjoying their time in class. As much information as the evaluations give, there is a gap in the usage by the students.

“The overall response rate has been going up for several semesters. Right now it’s around 57% but I am hoping to get it above 60%. Many students want to do and are eager to do their evaluations. They often provide valuable feedback for the professor and for the department chair, although there are other important forms also, and they are the only anonymous way for students to provide feedback” said Dr. Debra Schleef, Professor of Sociology and Assistant Provost for Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness.

There is some eagerness to do the evaluations, but only for a little over half of the school’s student population.  Students like having the option to give anonymous comments and suggestions to professors.

“I like that it is anonymous because it gives you a chance to be honest and show your opinion” said Christine Mears, a senior communications and digital studies major.

These evaluations are a resource for students to have input on what is going right and what could be improved, while also giving them an opportunity to express how they felt about the class and some of the things that did and didn’t work for that semester.

“I think that they are a useful tool to utilize, and that they are nice for the students to have. You can be anonymous and say what you need to on the evaluations” said Ryan Shircliff, a senior English creative writing major.

While the resource is there for us to use, many students are still a bit skeptical as to the actual impact the evaluations have.

“They are time consuming and I have a lot to do at the end of the semester. The time I would take to fill out the survey is time I could be using for work,” said Shircliff.

Despite speculation, many of these professors take evaluation suggestions and advice seriously, and implement them in the classroom to show how much they value the feedback.

The course evaluations are one of the primary ways that the student get to express how they feel about a class and their professors. It is an extra tool to give the students more of a voice on campus and give the professors the information they need to implement change in their classroom. Students should be sure to complete these and take them seriously.