Field of Science

Course Evaluations Part II

Previously, I discussed the nature of student evaluations. Where they can help (course improvement) and where they can hurt (evaluation of instructor effectiveness). Here, I want to discuss the outcome of my most recent course evaluations focusing on some specific questions on the evaluation. I will post a comparison between my current course and the previous course I taught and my non-scientific analysis of the evaluations between these courses in a third post.

Our evaluations are a series of questions that the students rank aspects of the course from 1 (very poor) to 7 (exceptional) with 4 being satisfactory. These are fill in the circle questionnaires so there is no chance of a 7 being misconstrued as a 1. There is also a section of instructor teaching characteristics that students rank as either strength or weakness. Finally, there is an empty box for specific comments. My class is small (~20 students) and everyone turned in an evaluation, although only a few entered specific comments (there was a reason for this I'll discuss later).

Once the evaluations are submitted, they are scanned and the Office of Measurement Services (I picture one or two undergraduate students feeding these forms into a scanner and stapling the resulting output sheets together between rounds of Halo as the Office of Measurement Services.) generates a set of summary sheets that is put in your permanent record and sent back to the instructor. So let's see what the evaluation entails and how I did.

How would you rate the instructor's overall teaching ability?
Mean 6.2 SD 1.1 Median 6.6
In my opinion this question has less to do with teaching ability and more to do with student satisfaction. I benefit from a small advanced class plus that I have great teaching ability.

How would you rate the instructor's knowledge of the subject matter?
Mean 6.0 SD 0.9 Median 6.2
In fact I am surprised this one was so high, some of the subjects I felt like I barely had my head above water.

How would you rate instructor's respect and concern for students?
Mean 6.4 SD 0.8 Median 6.7

How much would you say you learned in this course?
Mean 5.2 SD 1.5 Median 5.6
One of my lower scores although I am not too surprised here. This course is different than most courses I think students take since I do not emphasize the facts. We spend most of the time discussing how to go about doing the science to learn something and I assume the students come to class with the necessary facts to participate in that discussion. So I hope the students learned a lot and got something valuable from the course even if they didn't know it.

Instructor's clarity in presenting or discussing course material.
Mean 5.7 SD 1.3 Median 6.0
I thought i would do little better here, although there were a couple of outliers not found in other similar questions.

Instructor's rapport with you as a student.
Mean 6.3 SD 1.0 Median 6.7

Instructor's use of technology to enhance your learning experience in the course.
Mean 6.1 SD 1.1 Median 6.5
In other words, no problems plugging in the computer

Instructor's success in getting you to think.
Mean 6.2 SD 1.2 Median 6.6

Instructor's attention to what helps you learn.
Mean 5.7 SD 1.2 Median 6.0
I am at a loss, I don't recall spending anytime during the course thinking about what would help individual student's learn. I should have a 4 here (satisfactory). I think this is one of the more useless questions on the survey and likely reflects student satisfaction again.

Instructor's respect for students' individual differences.
Mean 6.0 SD 1.1 Median 6.3
What now?

Overall quality of text(s) and handouts.
Mean 5.4 SD 1.8 Median 6.0
The broadest range of responses and one of the only ones to receive a "very poor" ranking from a student. Not sure what to make of this. There is no textbook, nothing but scientific articles, reviews and primary research papers. Albeit some articles were poor, by-and-large most were very good (a conclusion reinforced by the students).

Helpfulness of feedback given to you about your performances.
Mean 5.1 SD 1.7 Median 5.6
I need to improve on the rate of feedback next year. Right now the students are about half-way through the semester before they get their first exam.

Degree to which evaluation procedures measured your knowledge and understanding.
Mean 4.8 SD 1.3 Median 4.8
Here is the other question to receive a "very poor" ranking from a student. Not sure what to make of this yet

Instructor's encouragement of students to express their views.
Mean 6.6 SD 0.8 Median 6.8
Lots of discussion, so nothing too surprising here

Strength/weakness breakdowns

Instructor available outside of class 100% strength
...effectively manages the classroom 95% strength
...begins class on time 95% strength
...ends class within the time scheduled 100% strength
...effectively facilitates classroom discussions 95% strength
...integrates topics and activities effectively 95% strength
...selects course content appropriate to length 100% strength
...paces assignments and tests appropriately 74% strength two exams, mid-term and final.
...defines academic dishonesty 100 % strength
...explains and clarifies grading policy 90% strength
...effectively uses technology and multimedia 95% strength

At this point a little less than half the class responded, in other words a smaller N and the questions used a variety of ranking criteria, thus I'll just summarize the gist of it.

I provided a moderately/highly structured learning environment.
I emphasized a balanced/many topics.
The course guide/syllabus were accurate in describing learning activities.
I stimulated you to think critically about the course work.
I set high expectations for student performance in the course.You're welcome
I used a variety of teaching and learning strategies in the course.
I provided students with timely and helpful feedback about student performance.
Students attended almost all of the class sessions.
Students would take another course by me. well, except the one student (I deduce) who marked just about everything as a weakness

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