By Robert Zavala
Many companies and retailers request feed back on their products and services. As a consumer I read reviews on products before deciding on a purchase. Some reviews are misleading as they are submitted as the product is opened or only used once. These review does not speak to products reliability or longevity. This week I had students complete the IDEA instructor evaluation and I am curious how the students see my course structure.
Timing is everything in my opinion. The evaluations take about twenty five minutes which is almost half of a fifty five minute class. Math courses are very dense with material and limited on time. My evaluations were distributed to the students on the class period before Thanksgiving break which is two weeks before the end of the semester. The course was near the end and the students had a lot of experience with the instructor and class policies.
My mind wonders how students will process the questions on the survey and what will they base their responses on? Will students just respond “average”, “below average” or “above average” all the way through the questions just to get out of class early? Will they base their responses on their last exam score or homework load?
From a students perspective an instructor may be considered “good” if they are easy graders and students can earn easy A’s. Student’s time management skills at may also influence their perceptions of the course and instructor’s performance. All responses are confidential and not shared with the instructor until after the course is over. Students can not change their responses if they change their opinions.
Instructor evaluations are important fro checking the pulse of the course. However, my reviews or often mixed. My class syllabi are similar for all my courses and instruction is almost identical between classes. My class objectives, homework load and test are created by the department and remain constant between classes of the same level. Some student’s rate my course very high with positive critiques to improve the course. However some students feel it is the worse course they ever attended. How can this be?
When I review my evaluation results I try to remember the class students and keep an open mind. I compare it to the product reviews I read on Amazon. I have never seen a product with all five star reviews. Maybe the average may be 5 stars but inevitably there will be some three and four star reviews. These reviews are all for the same product that has been mass produced in a factory with the same specifications. Consumers will always find something wrong a product whether it be price, packaging or quality. Students are no different.
How should instructors classify success in their courses, or career. Can it be based on student success, student retention or student’s evaluations? These are not mutually exclusive, instead intricately overlapping. Human nature may sway instructors to put the emphasis on the most positive reflection of ones self. Gauging an instructor is more difficult then it may seem.