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The Gatepost Editorial: Reevaluate the course evaluations

By The Gatepost Editorial Board

Once a semester, students are asked to provide evaluations of their courses by answering standardized questions by filling in circles on paper forms with a number two pencil.

Administered with the purpose of obtaining students’ feedback on professors’ pedagogy, communication effectiveness, and demeanor, student evaluations are critical to maintaining the quality of courses at FSU and ensuring students have an enriching experience in their classes.

However, the student evaluation system is not comprehensive enough to provide this important feedback because it is standardized.

The standard evaluation form asks students to assess a professor’s course based on criteria such as faculty interaction, organization and planning, and assignments, exams and grading. Students respond to each question on a one-to-five scale.

Other sections of the evaluation ask students to compare aspects such as course outcomes, student effort and involvement, and course difficulty to other classes the student has taken on a scale of one-to-five.

This quantitative form of evaluating courses is simply not effective.

Often, the standardized questions, which are focused on traditional teaching methods, fail to allow students to praise professors on unique parts of the course they enjoyed. Alternatively, they can also fail to allow the opportunity to offer constructive criticism on particular challenges students faced in the course.

This format also does not allow students to address how important each quality is to their learning experience. It also does not provide students the ability to write comments or provide qualitative feedback.

Completing a course evaluation should not feel like filling in a bubble sheet for an MCAS exam.

The student evaluation form is so mundane that some students may not even read the questions before quickly filling in the circles as either all ones or all fives.

How truly helpful are these evaluations to professors if they know this behavior is going on?

Delivering comprehensive, thorough feedback to professors is important because students are frequently hesitant to directly speak to them.

Students are encouraged to contact a chair or a dean if they are experiencing problems with a professor during a course. However, students are often not aware of these resources, do not have time to reach out, or are afraid their issue is not worthy of being shared.

These course evaluations should be their chance to highlight their experiences, rather than their voices becoming lost in a data-crunching process.

We at The Gatepost suggest moving course evaluations to a digital format where students can provide answers to multiple-choice questions as well as written responses to more open-ended, department-specific questions.

Offering the course evaluation online would protect student anonymity in sharing written feedback.

Although it can be difficult to guarantee students will participate in online course evaluations, making them a requirement to complete the course would eliminate this issue.

It would also ensure all students have the chance to complete the evaluation as some might miss the class during which the in-person evaluations are administered.

Furthermore, all professors should be required to undergo an evaluation for each course they teach. Tenured faculty are only required to have a course evaluation of one course of their choosing per year.

This is ridiculous.

Allowing them to choose which course is evaluated leaves the evaluation vulnerable to bias because the professor may choose their best class.

All professors, tenured or not, have room for improvement in their teaching style and students’ honest feedback is crucial to this growth.

It is time to reevaluate our course evaluation process.


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