The last assignment students usually have after a busy semester at the University of La Verne is to go online and fill out an evaluation of the course and the teacher.
The former assessment committee, now renamed the educational effectiveness committee, is promoting a revised evaluation form for spring 2009, pending Faculty Assembly approval.
According to Aghop Der-Karabetian, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a committee member, the revised evaluation, now in its third revision, will be modified to include more qualitative, short answer questions.
Students in the fall semester will still use the old form, which is online through MyULV, to answer 22 objective rating questions and four writing questions.
The proposed evaluation includes nine quantitative questions of topics including instructional materials, teaching techniques, learning environment and grading. There will be four additional resource questions that will not be included in the instructor’s score.
The same type of short answer questions will be asked regarding teacher and course strengths and weaknesses, though more analysis will be placed on the responses.
The change will be made to provide better evaluation of the course and the professor, said Der-Karabetian. He noted that student evaluations have been available online for four years, which serve for a quicker analysis, as well as a paper-saver.
A benefit of the electronic evaluations over the paper hard copies is that professors are able to view the result in a quicker period of time.
“I receive the evaluations within two to three weeks after students fill them out,” Ernest Baughman, assistant professor of chemistry, said.
The objective of the evaluations is multifaceted. “The faculty want feedback so they can improve their courses and their teaching,” Der-Karabetian said.
Der-Karabetian said that all faculty take the matter of evaluations very seriously.
“The evaluations help me because I want to help my students,” Baughman said. “I will make changes to make my courses more relevant to student needs.”
Additionally, evaluations are an administrative tool, used to evaluate the professor’s performance and to determine the future of their career.
“The evaluations are used for the faculty portfolio during the promotion and tenure process,” Der-Karabetian said.
An optional third use of the evaluations, though infrequently used, is for program reviews.
“Every five years, the programs are reviewed, and the learning environment is examined,” Der-Karabetian said. “Some programs use the evaluations to do content analysis.”
The program review process includes topics such as needs of students, curriculum changes, departmental concerns and overall organization of the course in the department.
The evaluations can also be applied to the University of La Verne at large.
“The evaluations provide accountability,” Der-Karabetian said. The universal practice is used for academics, but they are sometimes used for quality control, especially for new faculty.”
Though an important tool for academics, there remain problems with the current evaluation system. One problem is convincing students to take time to fill them out, since they are done so at students’ will.
“Half of the time I do not fill out the evaluations because I forget,” said John Skelton, a senior environmental biology major. “Also, my willingness to fill them out depends on how strongly I feel about the class.”
Senior business major Cindy Geil shares Skelton’s sentiment regarding willingness to fill out the evaluations. “I am more driven to complete the evaluations when I’m struck by something I really liked about the class or teacher, or something that I did not,” Geil said.
Another reason students are motivated to fill out the forms is out of hope that a course can be changed by their input.
“I’m motivated to fill out the forms because I’m optimistic that we can bring change,” said Aubrey McSweeny, junior environmental biology major.
Some teachers offer extra credit to give students incentives to complete the evaluations, whereas others, like Baughman, do not offer rewards and rely on student will.
“If there’s extra credit, I will fill them out. But I also will if the professor presents the attitude that he wants feedback,” McSweeny said.
An improvement that students would like to see would be the effects of their feedback.
“You fill out the evaluations, and you never hear about your opinions again,” Skelton said.
“If more attention were brought by the faculty to the changes that they have made to the curriculum or teaching style regarding previous semesters’ evaluations, I would be more motivated,” McSweeny said.
Der-Karabetian said that students should know that filling out the evaluations improves delivery to the courses, since the evaluations are read by the faculty’s department chair.
“Students do benefit from the changes the professors make; not in the particular course they reviewed, but in another course that was changed from their peers,” Der-Karabetian said.
“If anything, I fill out the forms so that other students don’t have to go through some of the crap I have,” Geil said.
Der-Karabetian suggests that in order to bring positive changes, students should be as specific as possible in the writing answers, citing examples—good and bad.
“Take advantage of the opportunity to change the faculty and administration,” Der-Karabetian said.
Lesley Michaels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.