Common course evaluations get critical look in BGSU Faculty Senate

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

The proposal to change the way Bowling Green State University students evaluate courses and professors drew questions at the recent Faculty Senate meeting.

The teaching and learning evaluation instrument would make sure that there are the same six questions on every course evaluation. Departments would still be able to supplement the evaluation with their own questions.

The common course evaluation would also be administered online, explained Julie Matuga, vice provost for institutional effectiveness.

A working group was charged with studying the issue in fall, 2015. It included faculty, administrators, and students. “What we’ve tried to do over the past two and half year is to bring in a lot of individuals to get their feedback,” she said.

The goal, Matuga said is “to better inform institutional professional development efforts, and provide feedback on teaching and learning.”

The group also wanted to make sure faculty had ready access to the data.

The group presented a report to the senate in March. The new evaluation will continue to be tested this semester before being implemented in fall.

The group recommended adopting EvaluationKIT to administer the evaluations. The system works well with Canvas, BGSU’s online course management system, and provides the feedback to faculty.

The working group studied 60 course evaluations to determine what questions are already being asked, and of those they culled questions the evaluations had in common. Through surveys and pilot programs, the group narrowed the list down to six questions. (Questions are below at end of the story.)

David Jackson, from political science, said all six common questions address teaching, not learning. None ask how much effort a student put into class, how often they attended, how much of the reading they did, or how much they gained from a class.

Matuga said those were good questions, but they hadn’t been selected by faculty. Departments still have the option of adding those.

Several faculty had questions about what students would fill out the survey.

Allen Rogel, who teaches astronomy, said he’s tried EvaluationKIT and found that students who dropped the course could still fill out the evaluation.

Jessica Turos, associate director, Office of Academic Assessment, said that glitch has been fixed.

Jackson said students who stop coming to class but don’t drop it could still do the evaluation, though he doubted they would.

Allowing for online administration of the evaluations will change who fills them out, said Kerry Fan, who teaches architecture. Now only students in class the day the evaluations are given fill them out. Less committed students now will have access.

Fan wondered how this would affect the results.

Turos said that has not been looked into.

The online evaluation  could still be administered by a monitor during a class period.

Jim Evans, of geology, questioned the validity of the evaluation system. “In 30 years of teaching the only useful observations are written comments. Those by definition can’t be quantitatively dealt with.”

Matuga said that there will be space for written comments on each of the six questions.

Citing research reported in the Journal of Higher Education, Evans said, that all quantitative course evaluation systems “fail all tests of statistical significance and the only reason why administrations are pushing them is because of the statistical flaws.” The evaluations “show no difference between teaching by experience teachers, by adjuncts, or long distance. So they can be used to justified hiring fewer experienced teachers, and going with more adjuncts,” Evans said.

“I hope you can understand if your efforts are met somewhat skeptically.”

Turos said she wasn’t sure how to address that concern.

More sessions to solicit faculty feedback will be held.

 

 

The questions are:

  1. The instructor clearly explains course objectives and requirements.
  2. The instructor sets high standards for learning.
  3. The instructor offers helpful feedback throughout the semester.
  4. The instructor provides opportunities and/or information to help students succeed (for example, tutoring resources, office hours, mentoring, research projects, etc.).
  5. The instructor encourages student participation (for example, by inviting questions, having discussions, asking students to express their opinions, or other activities).
  6. The instructor creates an environment of respect.
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