Suggestions get ignored too often
Head to Head
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012 22:05
The end of every semester brings final exams, late-night studying and last-minute attempts to get everything done before dropping it all and taking a break. But before classes can end, we must fill out those dreaded course opinion surveys. We rate the class and the professor, but I do not think they are used effectively.
After four years of course opinion surveys at two different schools, there is a lot that professors can improve on. I have not seen any changes from my professors or their classes through both my experience and from friends and fellow classmates, when so much could change. Some professors just don’t understand student needs, and how they should affect their class.
The surveys at their basic level are well-meant and important. Some professors receive great constructive feedback, which they use to improve their teaching and their courses. But most surveys are filled out in haste, or in hate, and their true potential is lost.
The Center for Teaching Excellence here at Plattsburgh State offers a service where professors can invite a consultant into their classroom to discuss and receive feedback about the class without the professor’s presence.
This service is a well-designed tool to receive constructive feedback for professors to use. One problem: only the professor can request it.
I’ve found that the few teachers who request this service, are not the ones that need it. The ones who do need it, are far from open to this service, let alone most criticism.
So if only professors can request this, and surveys aren’t always taken into consideration, why should students believe their opinions matter? Why should we feel that we are getting the best education for our money, and not just a professor who talks and talks, but doesn’t teach?
The course opinion surveys can be used more to their potential by increasing what they can do.
First, the surveys should not be taken at just the end of the semester, but at earlier times during the semester as well. This will provide feedback that is useful to the current students. Second, the surveys should be more specific to not only the class, but to the department and the professor teaching it. The questions should not be so open-ended, vague and generic. They need to be poised to receive better responses. The questions should “prod” students to give more descriptive answers, and not just “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”
Third, responses from previous semesters should be taken into consideration, not just for the professor, but for the new course opinion surveys when the class is taught again.
If a professor was thought to be lecturing too much and not having enough discussion, this should be brought up in the questions that are asked of students the next time around to ensure that steps were taken to improve their teaching and their classes. This will also help as a jumping off point for students to bring up other positives or negatives in the class.
Every professor teaches differently and every student learns differently. Working together can bring positive change to teaching and our college experience.