The process of student evaluation of teaching aims to stimulate faculty reflection about teaching and to encourage peer cooperation in the enhancement of teaching. Student evaluation forms are useful in three distinct ways.
- They can help improve teaching methods by understanding what is working and what is not, thus improving student learning.
- They can aid personnel decisions made by administrators and committees (e.g., promotion, merit increases, tenure).
- They give students a voice concerning their education.
These three goals should be explicitly understood when designing forms. Different questions may be appropriate for each of these goals.
All faculty members with teaching responsibilities at Hendrix College conduct student evaluations of all regular courses. Student evaluations conducted by full-time teaching faculty become part of the ongoing evaluation of these faculty members as described in Chapter E. Student evaluations conducted by adjunct teaching faculty become part of the department chair’s review of the adjunct teaching faculty. For purposes of evaluation of teaching, staff who teach departmental courses but do not hold faculty status are to be considered as adjuncts and evaluated accordingly by the chairs of their respective departments. They do not undergo periodic reviews according to the schedule specified for full-time faculty. Additionally, the department chair should ensure that all full-time and part-time faculty conduct a mid-semester check for all courses in the first semester of teaching.
Protection of the anonymity of student evaluations is integral to the process. For paper forms, although faculty may distribute blank forms in their own classes, faculty members should not be present while evaluations are being completed. A student volunteer should collect the forms and take them to the appropriate building or area assistant. For electronic or web forms, faculty should have their plans approved by their department chair who should verify that the methods protect student anonymity. Department chairs may need to consult Information Technology. In all cases, faculty should not see student evaluations for a particular course until after grades have been submitted for that course.
Each faculty member may design his or her own evaluation forms in consultation with the department chair. Alternatively, the Office of Academic Affairs or the department chair can supply a variety of evaluation forms for the faculty member to choose from. All forms should solicit student perspectives on the following topics:
- Pedagogical style or teaching methods: Students should be asked to evaluate whether the faculty member is consistently prepared for class and uses class time effectively, whether teaching methods are appropriate to the course, and whether the subject is clearly presented. Student views should also be solicited on the question of whether the faculty member stimulates discussion in class. Also in this area is the question of whether the assigned texts contributed to the learning process and whether other assignments, such as auxiliary readings and class projects, were effective instructional tools. Every evaluation form should solicit student views on the question of whether the faculty member demonstrates a clear understanding of the subject content of the course.
- Content or substance of the course: Every evaluation form should solicit student views on the course. Students should be asked to assess the subject of the course in relation to their education at Hendrix and in relation to their progress in a liberal arts experience. Students should be asked to comment on whether what they learned in the course contributed to their intellectual, personal and professional growth. Students should be asked whether they acquired new skills or enhanced previous knowledge as a result of the course and the professor.
- Sensitivity to the needs and interests of the students: Every evaluation form should offer students the opportunity to comment whether the faculty member motivates students to learn and is receptive to student questions and ideas. Also involved is the question whether the faculty member is perceived as approachable by students.
- Appropriateness and clarity of expectations: In this area students should be asked whether the instructor tests and grades fairly and is prompt in returning exams and other class work. Opinion should also be solicited on the degree to which the faculty member criticizes and comments informatively on class work and publishes and keeps sufficient office hours. Clarity of course objectives and clear explanations of grading procedures should be inquired about, as should the amount of work required and the number of evaluations (exams, papers, or projects).
- Class projects and papers: Student views should be solicited as to whether instructions were adequate for the choice of subject, format, and length; whether time, library, and other resources were adequate for completing the project; and whether grading was consistent with the instructions given. Students should have the opportunity to comment on whether or not projects contributed to their understanding of the course material.
- Laboratory course evaluation: For laboratory courses student evaluations should include questions to determine whether laboratory exercises were pertinent to the course, clearly explained, adequately demonstrated, clearly and consistently graded, appropriate to the assigned time, adequately equipped, and assisted by helpful laboratory assistants.
- Overall effectiveness: Students should be asked one question that evaluates the course and professor as a whole, considering both the limitations and possibilities of the subject matter and the course. This question should not be used to compare professors across disciplines or even within departments.