Evaluating courses and instructors


Finals are coming. Papers and projects fill the time of Butler Bulldogs all across campus.

Then, the day comes. The professor pulls out an envelope filled with bubbled forms for students to fill out and evaluate the course.

This happens at the end of every semester at Butler University.

Some students look forward to these course evaluations. Either they really enjoyed the course or really want to give their professor a piece of their mind.

However, some students do not see the point of the evaluations. They would rather randomly fill in the bubbles to finish as quickly as possible and get out of class. Because what are these evaluations really good for anyway?

Sophomore Jessica Graham, an organizational communication and leadership major, said she sees the good and bad sides of course evaluations.

“Honestly, I think they’re annoying,” Graham said. “We just want to get out of class, not fill out a long bubble sheet. But I can see how it’s useful because good professors will know they’re doing something right and bad professors will know they need to change.”

Course evaluations are required for every course taught at Butler. They are designed to help both professors and departments as a whole determine how well a professor is teaching a course.

These evaluations can be supplemented with a professor’s own form of evaluation, but supplementation is not required.

However, students never get to see what happens after the evaluations disappear into that white envelope and taken to the dean’s office.

Once the evaluations are collected, both the dean of the college and the course’s instructor get a copy. These evaluations are used during annual faculty reviews and to plan future courses.

Gary Edgerton, dean of the College of Communication, said the point of these evaluations is to better students’ learning experience.

“Teaching is the kind of profession where you can always get better,” Edgerton said. “Evaluations are a way for the instructor to find out what is working and what does not, although it should not be the only way.”

He said  the best way for instructors to evaluate a course is to collect their own feedback throughout the semester.

Edgerton said the course evaluations students use are just one of a handful of ways to evaluate a course.

Some instructors collect their own feedback. There are also peer evaluations, teaching portfolios and sometimes alumni evaluation.

Junior Rebecca Hilton, a pharmacy major, said she noticed change happen because of evaluations.

“I took a class that was just completely awful,” Hilton said. “I know that everyone must have given this professor awful evaluations. And now the professor does not teach the course anymore.”

Edgerton said all instructors are held to the same standard when they are evaluated.

“It is impossible for an instructor to receive no criticism,” he said. “It is all situational, but when an instructor is getting dozens of complaints, then it is a real alarm for the professor, their supervisor and their colleagues.”

Edgerton said the motive behind the evaluations is to be developmental. If an instructor is getting poor feedback, there will be conversation on how to better the course or teaching method.

Junior Kaylyn Stockdell, an education and English major, said evaluations work if students put in the effort.

“As an education major, I know that it is really important to get feedback,” Stockdell said. “But that is really only helpful if students put in the time and give good feedback. They cannot just fill in bubbles on the form.”

Armando Pellerano, a communication instructor, said although the comments on the course evaluations are helpful, the evaluations themselves are rather flawed.

“The evaluations are like a Swiss army knife,” Pellerano said. “They have a lot of function, but none of them are particularly useful.”