Students in a First-Year Writing Seminar

Administering Student Evaluations

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Indispensable Reference

Administering Student Evaluations


 

Evaluations

At the end of the semester, all instructors of First-Year Writing Seminars are required to have their students complete evaluations of the class.

Those of you who have taught a seminar before know that we provide a standard, required evaluation form. Starting in 2018, this evaluation will henceforth be administered online, where students will link to the survey, clicking checkboxes and keying their responses instead of filling in bubbles and hand-writing answers. The “scaled questions” (#1-33) are mandatory for all sections.

If you do not care for the written section of the evaluation, you may use that section of our evaluation form simply as a model and propose questions tailored to your section. Be sure, however, to include questions concerning what students learned about writing; and don’t simply solicit one or two sweeping generalizations. We are less concerned with how much your students liked you and the course than with what they have learned—or think they have learned—about writing. We’d be happy to work with you to design modified written questions of your own. Please note: we would need to receive these proposals for individualized questions by no later than the third-to-last week of the semester.

The uses of end-of-semester evaluations:

These evaluations can be of use to instructors in three ways: (1) The evaluation form itself provides useful information about course content and methods. Look over the evaluation form while setting up your course before the semester begins, and during it while you are teaching. The form also provides suggestions for terminology that you can teach students: students as writers should become acquainted with terms such as “audience,” “thesis,” and “evidence.” (2) Reviewing the evaluations after the end of the semester can provide important insights into how to improve your teaching in coming semesters. (3) Providing evidence of your improvement in areas about which students have been critical may impress future employers with your ability to grow as a teacher and to respond intelligently and seriously to criticism.

Warning

Keep your end-of-semester student evaluations. Prospective employers may ask to see them. They might wonder why you threw them away (or never administered any).

The benefits of mid-term student feedback

Doing some research on your students during the semester can be more productive (certainly for that semester) than end-of-term evaluations.

Administering student evaluations

At the appropriate point in any semester, you will be notified about the process of administering these online evaluations. We strongly recommend that you administer the online evaluations to all your students as a group, during a class session within the last week of the semester, just as you would have done with a paper form. It is in your interests to guarantee for yourself a high rate of participation.

Since the survey is compatible with laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, any student with one of these devices will be able to participate on the day in question; moreover, absent students can easily log in and submit their responses later.

Leading explicit discussions about the merits or problems of your class is not a good idea. The most aggressive or dominating student is likely to take over and set the agenda. Students themselves can be surprised to find out how much they don’t agree when they write their comments without previous discussionWritten evaluations allow the voices of quieter, less pushy students to be heard.

When administering evaluations, you need not leave the room. Doing so might allow student discussions of how to respond to the questions to develop, sometimes setting up an unproductive agenda that didn’t exist beforehand. To maintain order and silence, you can remain in a corner of the classroom while students are answering surveys. But the students' responses must not pass under your eyes. Responses will be delivered directly to the Knight Institute; once processed, the results will be sent to your department and to you.


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