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Student teacher evaluations aid faculty

Amid the sea of term papers and final tests that students went through two weeks ago, thinking about teacher evaluations may have been lost among the facts and figures crammed into students’ memories.

However, even after students have shifted their brains into gear for a new term, teachers are looking back on our comments to gain a better understanding of what we need from them to better learn the material and how they can create a positive learning environment.

“I appreciate it when students write a lot of comments,” said German instructor Kathy Godfrey. “It is helpful to hear what was effective and what may need to be changed. Even if I get some bad comments mixed with some good, it helps me to remember that I need to incorporate a number of teaching methods to reach each student.”

Course evaluations are the responsibility of each department dean or chair and therefore there are a number of different forms used, procedures for what data teachers receive and the processes used to review the teachers’ performance.

Once each department receives the envelopes of course evaluations brought back to them by a student volunteer, the department must check over each individual form and make sure that it was filled out correctly.

“Going through each form and ensuring that the right CRN was filled in and that the bubbles are properly filled out in pencil, not pen, is the most time consuming part of my job with the course evaluations,” said Ellen Wack, administrative assistant in the department of art.

The scan-trons are sent to Kara Seabeck in the Office of Institutional Research for scanning. Departments then receive the scan-trons back, as well as a breakdown of how the students answered each question.

Each of the five departments interviewed have a policy that teachers can view the students’ comments and scan-tron results only after having submitted their final grades. The data is generally available within the first to second week of the next term’s classes.

What data the teachers receive and what is then done with that information varies between each department.

The original scan-trons with the students’ written comments and the breakdown of the scan-tron answers are made available to the teachers in the Department of Foreign Languages, Department of History, and the University Studies Department.

The art department goes to great lengths to protect the anonymity of the students’ comments by keeping the originals and retyping each student’s hand-written comments before allowing the teachers to see what was written about them and their course.

The department of foreign languages allows the teachers to keep the original copies for their own personal files, while keeping the final results of the scan-trons. The statistics are then used as a reference in the teachers’ reviews done by their department chair.

The department of history keeps the originals in the teacher’s individual file and the evaluations are then looked at when a teacher is up for promotion or tenure.

The university studies department makes copies of the scan-trons and written comments, then giving the copies to the teacher, while the originals remain in a file. The university studies department has an intense review process for their teachers, which includes meetings with faculty to discuss what students considered as having been done well and what could be improved upon, educational retreats and an annual review.

“This program is about creating the best learning environment for students,” said Director of University Studies Judy Patton. “We care about what students think are going well and what isn’t. And if a problem with a teacher is brought to our attention, we try to intervene in some positive way.”