Towards the end of each semester at C.W. Post and other colleges around the country, students are given course evaluation forms to complete in each class. At C.W. Post, the course evaluation forms are used to assess the course material and the instructors.
Course evaluations are completed anonymously; the students complete the forms once the professor exits the classroom. When the students complete the forms, one student from the class returns the completed forms to the Registrar’s Office.
The forms are then forwarded to the University of Washington’s Seattle Office of Educational Assessment for processing. After six to eight weeks, C.W. Post receives the results. The reports are then submitted to the deans, department chairs and individual instructors for review. The course evaluations are a matter of public information, and the results are available for review to students in the library.
Students can access the results by clicking on the Online Database (alphabetical list) link followed by clicking on the letter “C” for course evaluations and then by clicking on the course evaluation link on the homepage on any computer at the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library.
While completing course evaluations have become a habitual practice for C.W. Post students, many are unaware that the results of these forms can affect curriculums and professors.
According to Dr. Lori Knapp, the Deputy Vice President of Academic Affairs for Long Island University, professors can measure their success while finding areas to improve, and departments use the results to make certain changes to courses and program curriculum.
Dr. Knapp said, “Outcome from student course evaluations is significant because it allows us to monitor the effectiveness of our degree programs and course offerings as we strive to deliver excellence in instruction to our students.”
Aside from completing the standardized course evaluations, students enrolled in Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) courses complete an additional written course evaluation. According to Wendy Ryden, the Coordinator of the WAC program, the WAC evaluations have been in effect longer than the general course evaluations that L.I.U. purchases from the University of Washington.
The purpose of the WAC course evaluations is to help give instructors who teach and administer the WAC program a sense of student insight on the writing class in relation to the two main components of a WAC course, which are informal writing and revised formal writing.
“What we discover is that students overwhelmingly (upward of 80 percent in any given academic year) experience their WAC courses in the way that we hope, and that is they come to understand writing as a means of learning more deeply and as a process that involves revision.” Ryden added, “After the total responses are tallied, the surveys are returned to the instructors, as the feedback is useful in helping them think about how to structure their courses.”
According to Kay Sato, the Assistant Provost in the School of Continuing Education, the curriculum can be entirely rewritten because of the results of the course evaluations in the School of Continuing Education. Sato said, “Courses and/or instructors are not retained in our offerings if they consistently receive low ratings.” She added, “We very strictly control for quality in order to be the best we can be for students.”
Dr. Mary Infantino, the Director of the Graduate program and an advanced practice and associate professor of Nursing said, “I have no problem administering course evaluations, but it does get arduous sometimes.” Dr. Infantino stated that the Nursing Department reviews the evaluations very carefully and will sometimes make curricular changes based on them.
However, a professor from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who wished that his name not be published, stated, “The results are considered as a part of the promotion and tenure process, but then, it’s not clear to what extent they’re used or how significant their affect might be.”
Professor of Electronic Media and Chair of the Media Arts Department Barbara Fowles stated she doesn’t mind administering the evaluations; however, she does feel rushed at the end of the semester. She said, “I think they are very flawed as a way of telling whether a teacher is effective or not.” She added, “However, they are the only way we have to really give students a chance to express their views. It’s better than “Rate Your Professors,” which can get pretty ugly.”
As Pioneer reporter Genna Apfel reported in an article on October 26, 2011, ratemyprofessors.com is a website where students can find and post professor ratings and read comments from both current and former students about their professors.
Like the C.W. Post evaluations, Ratemyprofessors.com is anonymous. However, the website allows students to leave comments, meaning students can easily express their feelings for a particular class or professor, unlike the L.I.U. administered course evaluations, which come in a multiple-choice, standardized evaluation.
Of the necessity and effectiveness of the course evaluations, junior Journalism major Adrianna Alvarez said, “If done in a different way and there were a guarantee that the students were being heard, then they would be necessary.” She added, “The course evaluations are so impersonal; they are done at the end of class when everyone just wants to leave. We never hear about them again after that day.”
The results can be reviewed for a specific department or professor, and the median is used to determine what two scores the professor ranged between. So, while the L.I.U. course evaluations may not be as open as ratemyprofessors.com, the results are used to measure a program and an instructor, and students should answer honestly and fairly.