As the semester ends, I would like to remind students of the value of a well-written course evaluation. Course evaluations allow students to share wisdom with the next generation and to provide feedback to instructors and the university. Despite this, few students fill out narrative reviews. I propose we up our game.
In my ideal world, course1 evaluations are written for students by students. They contain any advice you would go back and give to yourself before the class. Course evaluations are most useful when they provide context: who you are, why you took the course and your background up to that point. They should discuss the difficulty of the course, how stressful it was, how much time you spent on it, what assignments were like and briefly summarize the course material. It’s also nice to know how enthusiastic the professor is about the class and how effective they are at communicating information. Similarly, a good review discusses the skills you took away from the course, how it fits into your overall curriculum and who you recommend the course for.
Instructor evaluations, in contrast, should be written directly to the professor. They should discuss what went well in class and contain constructive suggestions for improvement. The more specific the feedback and the kinder the delivery, the more likely it is that these suggestions will have a positive impact. In these evaluations, it’s important to separate the evaluation of the teaching from how much you like the instructor as a person and how you feel about the grade you got. This is your opportunity to give kudos and recognition to the professors who are really knocking it out of the park.
Through tools like Esther and Schedule Planner, Rice has provided students with fantastic infrastructure to provide feedback to the university and to share wisdom amongst students. We should make use of this infrastructure. As we bring greater thought and detail to our evaluations, the more beneficial of an impact they will have.
Rice has an internal course evaluation tool that has students evaluate courses and instructors separately.↩