Student opinions make difference
Head to Head
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012 22:05
Course opinion surveys remind us that, yes, the semester is truly coming to an end.
I’m a huge fan of these surveys for many reasons. One, if I don’t like a teacher, this is when my true feelings are released. If you were a bad teacher, I will let you know exactly why I think you’re a bad teacher. If I loved your class, my report will make your day.
As a teaching assistant, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly that these reports can cause. That’s why I feel that these reports are not only important, but I can safely say they are very useful.
I’ve been a teacher’s assistant for Rene Burl for the past two semesters, Steven Howell (for) just this one. Both Burl and Howell are big fans of the surveys.
“Even though it’s a requirement, it’s part of my evaluation process as a professor,” Howell said. “I take feedback from my students very seriously all year long, but I appreciate when it’s documented and I do read them all.”
The class I assist Howell in, Magazine Article Writing, has changed since I took it in Spring of 2011. Instead of constant readings in class of published work and a more direct way of teaching the material, Howell has changed his approach. He spends more time with students to flesh out ideas, find markets to sell their pieces too, and has even introduced a textbook into the class.
Some of these changes were direct results from the surveys my class had filled out in 2011.
“I always ask my students how I can improve the class. I’ve gotten very positive critiques that I implemented the next semester,” Howell said.
Burl takes a similar approach to receiving feedback from students and even has a weekly survey during the first month of classes. In these assessments, students list what they’ve learned, what they want to know more about, and if they believe the goal of the week was achieved. Burl takes into account for the next week of classes.
If there are changes to be made, she’s quick to adjust the class to the students’ needs.
As a teacher’s assistant, I know that if I see things that need to be changed or addressed in class, I know I can freely tell Burl or Howell because they are always looking to improve.
Seeing teachers invest so much into student opinion has actually improved my tactics for being a TA. I now make sure to talk to students to see what I could be doing better.
I know that Burl and Howell are not the only teachers who utilize these surveys. Now, I have been told stories about teachers who continually reject these as being silly and how some teachers may not be taking the critiques to heart. But, ultimately, that is their loss. When done correctly, the surveys can really help the class experience for future students.
So even if you hated the class, let the teacher know. Hopefully, they’ll look at what you wrote and think “OK, maybe I should have more quizzes instead of lengthy tests.”
Your most hated teacher could become someone’s favorite because of what you wrote.
So students, raise your voices, or, pencils and let them know how you feel. Teachers, make sure you listen.