The chance to grade professors is the highlight of the semester for many GW students. Who can pass up the opportunity to put into writing how irritating it is for an instructor to ask students to please leave when they are only 15 seconds late? Or how about the professor who believes that a 71-percent class average on the last quiz means that students are doing too well and decides the midterm will be much harder.
For good or ill, course evaluations may be the best hope some students have for communicating their classroom experience to academic department heads and other students who may take the class in the future. As the semester comes to a close, students are required to complete two slightly different course evaluations. The Student Association writes one evaluation, and the other evaluation is for the academic department that offers the individual courses.
The SA compiles its course evaluations to produce the Academic Update, which gives students the opportunity to view information about the course and the professor, according to Elizabeth Cox, SA vice president for Academic Affairs. She heads the committee that produces the Academic Update, which can be viewed online at http://sa.gwu.edu/student/aupdate.html. The update has not been revised since the spring semester of 1998, but will be updated following spring semester 1999, Cox said. She said she did not know why the update had not been revised in an entire year.
The SA survey, which is presented on the Web site, includes students’ ratings of professors, course workload, the availability of professors for outside help and the level of challenge the course offered. All topics are graded on a scale of one to five.
Students have various learning styles, and a class that is 90 percent tests and 10 percent papers may not be the best for the student who does better in a class that is 50/50, and so on, Cox said.
The SA’s evaluations will give that kind of course information and more in the new update, Cox said. She and her SA assistants are revising evaluations to include more revealing questions about courses, she said.
Basically, this will help students get to know a little more about the professors that they are going to be taking in coming semesters, Cox said.
In addition, this year the committee will be making a professor survey. These surveys will go to professors to fill out and ask questions regarding the use of teaching assistants, cost of books and how many years the professor has taught the course. The professor will also include a 100-word course description.
(The Academic Update) would be an amazing resource, I wish someone had told me about it, junior Elika Naraghi said.
Some students said they had never heard of the service but said they would definitely use it when it becomes available in the spring.
Individual academic departments use a second course evaluation that is distributed to students at the end of the semester.
As chair, I read every single one, said Faye Moskowitz, chairwoman of the English department. She said that if a majority of responses from a certain class indicate that the instructor is having difficulty being as effective as he or she could be, Moskowitz would work with the professor on improvement.
Both departmental and SA evaluations are filled out anonymously.
We find that students are emboldened to say what they truly believe, said Moskowitz of the evaluations’ policy of anonymity.
This year the English department is working on altering its evaluations to elicit more informative responses, said English professor Lee Salamon, who heads the department’s committee on course evaluations.
The department now uses a scale method, in which answers are based on a scale between one and five.
Many students have circled all fours (on their evaluation), and you can see that they spent no more than 30 seconds on it, Salamon said.
This article appeared in the November 4, 1999 issue of the Hatchet.