Who cares about course evaluations?

Monday, December 5, 2016 - 14:45


I do. That was an easy question!

The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) has always been using end-of-semester course evaluations, where students are asked to evaluate different aspects of their learning experience throughout the semester using a questionnaire composed of 31 questions. 
Until a year ago, students were handed a print version of the questionnaire and given some time during class to fill them in, usually in the last few classes of the semester. Recently, AUIS adopted a digital method and switched from print to online questionnaires, which is proven to have many advantages, such as convenience for respondents. Students can now fill the course evaluations at their convenience, any time, anywhere, using any device, and spending as much time as they would like to. The student response rates, however, have dropped dramatically since then!
Students don’t seem to believe that they should fill course evaluations if they don’t have to. They believe that no one seems to care about course evaluations. When you talk to them about course evaluations, their immediate question is “who cares about course evaluations?”. And my answer is “I do”. 
I wish that every question students had for me was as easy to answer as this one. 
I believe teaching can be seen, among many other things, as a reflection of how well we know something and how well we can transfer that knowledge. But it is very hard to know how good we are if no one is willing to tell us. That is why I do care about students’ evaluations of my courses. I learn from them; I learn about my skills, my methods, my knowledge, and myself. 
At the end of every semester, when the evaluations arrive from the registrar’s office, I spend a significant amount of time studying them. I go through them, I analyze them, I summarize them, and now I share them publicly with everyone to show you that I do; I care about course evaluations and I know many other professors do. 
Now, spend some time interacting with the following visualization and let me know what you think about the evaluations of my Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 courses. Your feedback matters, and the time you spend filling those evaluations is time well spent and well invested in improving your institution. So keep them coming, as they are valuable only when they exist.
Faculty blog by Dr. Hemin Latif, assistant professor, Department of Information Technology 

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