Course evaluations are vital for class improvements

State Hornet Staff

Student course evaluations need to be taken seriously because without feedback, professors are unaware of necessary improvements and suggestions made by students. 

Professors are assigned full loads of work each semester and have catalogues for guidance to determine what the course is going to entail. They are on their own to create course syllabi and other course related material.

Art department chair Catherine Turrill knows the feedback professors receive is invaluable and that teaching is the most important thing faculty does at Sacramento State.

“Data generated by mandated course evaluations are considered, as are students’ written comments on those evaluations,” Turrill said. “They are considered both by the teacher, who uses insights from results to review how the course went (what worked, what didn’t work), and by faculty and administrators who review the teacher.”

Last semester, evaluations were given online and in paper form. The online format is convenient, but most students do not use it. Paper format is time consuming and usually given at the end of class period when students want to leave. 

Evaluations happen at the end of the semester, so results foster a full picture of a professor’s performance. Yes, finals week is near, but show respect and give quality feedback.

After course evaluations are taken, information is then used by department chairs and deans to assess performance of professors. 

“There are repercussions if an instructor receives low scores,” Turrill said. “An instructor who has a poor record as a teacher, based on results of the student course evaluations and other assessment tools, could be at risk of not being retained or promoted, depending how serious or long-standing (involving more than one semester or academic year) the problem was.”

Even though most questions on the evaluations are on a scale, the idea is to capture what professors excel at and what they can improve on. When students lack the respect to give useful feedback they lose the right to complain about professors menial flaws.

“I take evaluations seriously,” said junior sociology major Natalie Garcia. “It’s a way to tell professors how to make improvements.”

According to Sac State academic technology and creative services website, the average response rate is 50.02 percent, and response rates differ whether an evaluation is conducted online or on paper. It is not an indicator of actual ratings provided by student responses. Humanities professor Judith Poxon receives mixed messages from results of evaluations.

“Unfortunately, I’ve found that many students blame teachers for their own performance, even if that performance is based on students’ lack of investment in the class,” Poxon said. “But I always look at (the evaluations) and use them as a basis for thinking about ways I could improve.”

Lack of concrete feedback by students on course evaluations needs to change, because without the feedback of students, professors will either keep performing with mediocrity or miss out on knowing how much their teaching is appreciated. 

Communication studies professor Carmen Stitt received varying comments on her course evaluations.

“The best (comments) are something along the lines of, ‘What I learned in class is really useful.’ Or when students who graduated some time ago say, ‘I still remember what we learned and I remembered that because it helped me,’” Stitt said. 

Do not underestimate the value of good feedback. We expect useful critiques on our work from professors, so we should do the same for them.