Bad Teacher or Bad Course?: The Importance of Course Evaluations

Throughout a student’s college career, they will have to face a professor or a course that isn’t to their liking. Some students brave through these courses, while others either drop them or fail. Other courses, however, are so enjoyable that some students wish they could take them again.

At the end of these courses, students often have a final exam or project, and, of course, a course evaluation. Although the course evaluation is optional, this gives students an opportunity to provide their opinion regarding all-things related their classes.

Course evaluations mean so much, shaping how the students can have a productive and positive academic career, allowing their voices to be heard on how professors and lecturers are either doing bad or well.

Evaluations are available to be completed for a two-week period until the last day of classes. Professors and lecturers receive the anonymous evaluations shortly after for review, as well as the academic department they are assigned to.

Brian Schrader, PhD, a lecturer in the Communication Studies Department and the school’s debate team coach, appreciates the course evaluations and what they can achieve when everyone completes them.

“The course evaluations are very beneficial when it comes to teaching. It critiques your teaching style while helping you figure out what students enjoy,” said Schrader.

However, it is important that not just a select few complete the evaluations. For the best and most accurate results, all students should fill them out. Many professors, including Schrader, use them in order to improve the class for future semesters.

“The evaluations almost groom my instructing. Whether it’s the teaching style, this one particular assignment, or even a unit or section,” said Schrader. “I try to make my teaching a better learning experience for students.”

Schrader believes course evaluations can be a useful tool that does not have to be limited to only negative feedback. If a student likes a class, they can say what they like about it and why. This may influence a professor or lecturer to add similar assignments most students like, for example, while taking other ones away, and more.

“Students often overlook course evaluations, but they mean so much,” said Schrader.

Are students required to complete evaluations for each course? No, but every question answered on the evaluation holds magnitude, among other things that are reviewed on a regular basis by department committees.

“It is important to note that evaluations are only one part of the total package that is reviewed. If a pattern of poor evaluations over a period of time is discovered, then that may have influence [over] the final assessment of the committee. Depending on what stage the instructor is at in their promotion and tenure process, it is possible that a plan of improvement could be initiated,” said Michelle Silva, PhD, a lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies.

It is important for students’ voices to be heard, as evaluations are taken seriously by each university academic department. According to the university website, evaluations are used in the process of making decisions regarding staffing, tenure, and performance review.

So, although evaluations may be closed for last semester, consider filling them out after this one. They may just make a difference.