A Quick Reflexion on Course Evaluations

Clément Aubert

May 14, 2019

Student Evaluations

Auguta Univestity pays the Campus Lab company to organize the evaluation of the classes by the students. This is supposedly the place and time where students can help their instructors to improve their classes. It is done anonymously, so that students that negatively comment on the class can do so without suffering retaliation from the instructor, the department, or anyone else.

I love to read your feedback and to discuss how I can improve my classes. I understand that it seems “safer” to comment anonymously. But I hate the “quantitative analysis” (i.e., the grade) aspect of it.

Grading, Evaluating

When I grade your work, I do it:

Unfortunately, some studies show that students tend to evaluate their classes:

I am not endorsing it in any way, but you can see some instructors ranting about those bias at https://twitter.com/PhDisillusion/status/1121438817435693061.

Then, What?

Evaluations are used in two ways:

I believe the first use is beneficial, and the second is harmful. A University is not a place where students should be treated as consumers, and where a “five-star rating system” should decide of our teaching politics. Your instructors are often trying to do the best for your learning, and not to maximize their evaluations: if you want to keep your classes meaningful and focused on your learning experience, then

  1. Write lengthy, meaningful comments, keeping in mind the positive as well as the negative,
  2. Chose “N/A” whenever possible for numerical questions, and the best grade otherwise.

I’ll work on my side to

  1. Read, consider and apply your comments,
  2. Convince my superiors to read the evaluations rather than to simply have a look at the numerical grade.

My Evaluations

The evaluations at “Rate my professor” are probably to be taken with a pinch of salt, since no verification whatsoever is done, but available for my teaching at Appalachian State University and for my teaching at Augusta University.

References

[1] M. Hessler, D.M. Pöpping, H. Hollstein, H. Ohlenburg, P.H. Arnemann, C. Massoth, L.M. Seidel, A. Zarbock, M. Wenk, Availability of cookies during an academic course session affects evaluation of teaching, Medical Education. 52 (2018) 1064–1072. doi:10.1111/medu.13627.

[2] N. Kornell, H. Hausman, Do the best teachers get the best ratings?, Frontiers in Psychology. 7 (2016). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00570.

[3] L. MacNell, A. Driscoll, A.N. Hunt, What’s in a name: Exposing gender bias in student ratings of teaching, Innovative Higher Education. 40 (2015) 291–303. doi:10.1007/s10755-014-9313-4.