The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Course evaluations are not useful

This semester is rapidly coming to its conclusion. I’m sure most people are freaking out over final projects and papers and consuming unhealthy amounts of caffeine and possibly punching walls.

It’s all typical fare for this time of year, but so is another thing: professor evaluations. Some have you fill them out in class and some have you do it over the Internet.

It’s hard to go through a course and not see a multiple-choice list that describes a professor’s performance at the end of it. I find this to be a waste of time.

Now, I cannot go into much detail at the worth this has to a professor, because frankly, I don’t know. I have had professors openly say that they could care less about the evaluations.

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Granted, these are the tenured professors who I have heard this from, but these same professors still give me a sheet or send me an email telling me to evaluate them.

I don’t claim to be a genius, but this seems counter-intuitive to me. I also think it is logical to assume that a tenured professor is probably unlikely to change much since they obviously have done something right to get tenure.

I’m sure that some of these professors honestly care about their evaluations and make changes or improvements to how they teach or present the course.

Well, then these professors need to get everybody on board, because it sends the wrong message when even one professor says that they could care less about it.

In terms of students, I can say that I find course evaluations to be an useless exercise.

I think the only way that actual change will happen is if you talk to a person face-to-face. Filling out this bullet-list form so that somebody else can look at it and then tell a professor about it seems too watered down.

If you have a problem, you should go tell the person. Conversely, if you like what they are doing, you should also go tell them.

Yes, this will require increased bravery from a student, as what I’m suggesting is more intimidating, but I think it is the only really effective solution.

I also understand that making things anonymous may get a more honest answer, but it will also give a less thoughtful answer. I see many students who quickly finish the thing and get out of there. There is obviously some student apathy as well.

The motivation level will not always be there since they will not be taking the course again and may never take the professor again. There is also the whole “the professor doesn’t care” perception that isn’t helped by what I previously mentioned about professor apathy.

This is probably an unfair criticism, but I know that this is an opinion that some, if not many, students share. If somebody believes this, it’s also hard to give a thoughtful answer.

I also don’t think these surveys adequately take into account student engagement. Sure, there are questions discussing it, but it is really hard to ascertain the actual reasons why somebody chooses not to pay attention in class besides teaching ability.

Again, without figuring out engagement, it threatens the legitimacy of the surveys.

Finally, a lot of the questions on the sheet are silly. This includes questions about group activities and levels of homework. My favorite is when it asks a question about the professor’s knowledge in the subject.

I’m really hoping that the university knows what they are doing when they hire a professor. Seriously, this whole thing really starts to break down if our school can’t do at least that.

Also, how is a question like this helpful to the professor? I guess I’d think that if they thought they were stupid, they wouldn’t teach.

Maybe this question is just your perception of your professor’s display of knowledge, but I think if you know what you’re talking about, you know what you’re talking about. Perception goes hand in hand with that.

This is all too bad considering that I think feedback is usually very helpful, and I don’t want to minimize the usefulness of it, I’m just not sure if this brand of feedback does
much good.

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Course evaluations are not useful