Ball State University // Photo Courtesy
How do those course evaluations actually work?
It's that time of year again — time to fill out course evaluation surveys.
The link to do so is emailed to all students, and anyone who fills them out can access their final grades earlier.
But what happens with all of this feedback professors get?
The goal is for professors to use it to improve their teaching and delivery of class material, said Jim Jones, director of research and academic effectiveness. The feedback can also be used to make personnel decisions, like tenure promotion or seeing if a professor isn't doing as well as they should be.
"Only students can provide day-to-day information about how well a class is going," Jones said.
But on average, only about 50 percent of students fill out the evaluation, Jones said.
Ken Bantz, an accounting instructor, has been disappointed with the amount of students who fill out the evaluations. Since the university switched from paper to digital evaluations, he's seen a decrease in participation.
Even so, of the responses he gets, most are relatively constructive.
"I'm looking for constructive input on how I can improve my teaching techniques," Bantz said. "I've taught for quite some time, and I'm always things looking for to tweak or improve."
There are always the students who aren't happy with their grades who leave a vindictive review, but Bantz has learned to ignore those.
"Constructive input gives me more fuel, so if I can make changes to help the students learn and progress, I can make adjustments for next class," he said. "It's a challenge when you've taught a course for a while — you don't want to be complacent."
When professors get all of the feedback from the evaluation after final grades are turned in, they're supposed to — but not required to — look through all the data and see what they're able to improve about the course and their teaching methods.
"It's up to the instructor how much they can get from it," Jones said. "Generally it's going to be an instructor seeing the information fed back to them and trying to take that and design the best possible course."
Professors can't see any identifying details about the student who fills out the evaluation, so everything is completely anonymous. Only that professor and their department chair are able to see the feedback.