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Evaluations taken seriously

Did your professor talk too much, give too many papers and present information terribly this semester? Or, did they give great lectures, teach you information that is useful to your life and treat you as though they care about you? Let your voice be heard when you fill out course evaluations.

Course evaluations are done for many different reasons. They can help professors improve by providing feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

The evaluations also help with assessing courses and making sure courses are important.

Finally, course evaluations help department chairs and deans make decisions about promoting and demoting staff.

“Some students don’t understand the importance of [course evaluations],” Tom Dahlstrom, head of Institutional Research at Eastern University, said.

He hopes students will answer questions that apply to their course or professor with mature answers that they have really thought about. Dahlstrom also wants to remind students that immediate results are not to be expected.

Course evaluations do not provide perfect results and do not apply to all courses (i.e. student teaching, internships and music lessons). If a question does not apply to a specific course, Dahlstrom asks students to leave it blank.

Another downfall students run into deals with the amount of time spent filling out the course evaluations. Professors may only give 20-30 minutes to fill out the form. This does not give students a great deal time to think deeply of their responses (multiple choice and additional comments).

One alternative could be for students to fill out the forms online rather than in class, so that they can have more time to reflect on their responses about the class. The problem with online surveys is that not all students would fill out the forms, which would leave a small sample of students to gather information.

Comments from course evaluations are typed up without being edited for nonsense statements (for example, a student once wrote “purple monkey dishwasher” in the comments section) and foul language, Dahlstrom said.

According to him, students once decided it would be funny to leave a comment saying, “the best day in class was when [the professor] wore a chicken suit,” which was not true.

Students need to take these evaluations as seriously as the administration does and keep in mind the summaries are put into professors’ permanent files, according to Dahlstrom

“I guess I kind of take them seriously-not as much as I should but I try to fill them out as true as I can,” sophomore Elizabeth Stoddard said.

Dahlstrom also said students need to remember that their own opinion of a professor will vary from other students in the same class. For example, a student may like the professor’s illustrations but the student across from them may not find the illustrations helpful at all.

In addition, students shouldkeep in mind a professor may have had a bad day, he said.

Dahlstrom also pointed out that the more details students include in the additional comments section, the more helpful the feedback will be to the professor.

“I fill [course evaluations] out honestly,” sophomore Lauren Baylis said.

Filling out the evaluations honestly is the only way for the truth to come out and the only way professors can improve, Dahlstrom said.

There are three things that are most important to remember when filling out course evaluations, according to Dahlstrom: remember to be honest, detailed and to fill out only the questions that apply to your particular course.

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