Reverse Grading: A Look Into Student-Teacher Evaluations

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Silence fills the room as pencils and pens stroke along the fateful pieces of paper. This is the moment of the year when students have a chance to reflect on the previous 15 weeks of the semester. How was their educational experience? Did they learn anything? Was it enjoyable? But above all, the most important question is, “How did the professor do?” These are not just any evaluations. They are the evaluations that determine the future of professor’s lives. They are student-teacher evaluations.

 From the time they are handed out in class, there has always been a constant wonder amongst students as to how their Professor’s view the evaluation process. After all, their futures rest solely in our hands. Teachers are not allowed to be present in the classroom when they are being filled out. They are not even allowed to deliver them to their respective department buildings for review afterwards. “It is often not until the middle of the next semester before I get feedback on the previous semester,” says English Professor Daniel Quigley, “so any excitement has pretty much dissipated by then.” Adjunct English Professor Anne Sanderson has a different take on the matter. She says, “I’m always curious about the results and interested to see how my own evaluation of the class compares to what students have to say.”

 So what do students have to say? Whether it’s a certain teaching method that a professor used, the way they explained the course material, how respectful they were towards others, the grading policy and many more things. The list continues resulting in evaluations that can be quite informative and provide receptive feedback for the Professors. However, there are also evaluations that can be quite underwhelming and not give the professors the feedback that they are ever so desperately seeking. Rachel LaBianca, a senior Communication Arts student falls into the former category. “When I fill out evaluations I always try to fill out the evaluations as best and with most honesty as I can so that future students can get more out of the class than I did,” says LaBianca. One teacher who has responded extremely well to this kind of feedback is Communication Arts adjunct Professor Fred Rosen. “I can’t speak for anyone but myself. In my experience, they certainly have helped me. Students have offered great ideas and comments. Many are extremely supportive and shown me how I have impacted on their lives positively,” says Rosen.

 To impact the lives of students is what truly drives an educator. The work may be challenging and the tests may be vigorous, but no Professor sets out to make anyone’s lives miserable. If a course does not go according to plan for a particular semester, Professors attempts to change the format of the course for the following semester. “I think receiving student feedback is crucial to me as I prepare for the next semester.  The questions point to particular parts of the class (communication, work load, etc.) and it is helpful to get the student perspective on these issues,” says Professor Quigley. “Student evaluations usually validate my vision and efforts in the classroom. This is rewarding and, sometimes, a welcome surprise,” says Professor Sanderson.

 It is instrumental for students to remember that they are the ones with the power. An educator’s teaching style, course curriculum and in the most distressing of cases their lives are at the mercy of student-teacher evaluations. They are taken extremely seriously by the teachers and the administration. It is important to not feel badly if a unsatisfying evaluation is submitted. Rachel says, “When I fill out a bad evaluation I do feel bad, however, it’s for their own benefit, because in most classes, especially art classes, they give you constructive criticism on your work. So this gives me and other students the opportunity to help them become a better professor, by letting them know what they need to do to allow the students to become better educated as well as get the most out of their class.”

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Reverse Grading: A Look Into Student-Teacher Evaluations