As the halfway mark of the spring semester passes, students get restless, professors frantically cram in more information and end of the year evaluations close in fast.
For many students, the concept of course evaluations seems trivial and mostly tedious. However, many of the responses from course evaluations not only help professors maintain their status at the university during their end of year reviews, but also provide feedback that can be used to improve courses syllabi and teaching styles. Since course evaluations serve as such a useful tool for teachers, it seems unrealistic for students to wait until after the course has been completed before writing evaluations, when they will not benefit from any sort of changes their professor may make.
Professors have a lot on their plates. With at least two classes, plenty of papers, exams and assignments to grade and whatever else they may be taking on, like a dissertation or research project, it’s unsurprising that professors want to stick to the syllabus they created. What can be frustrating for students, however, is that if professors stay stagnant in their style of teaching and their approach throughout the semester, students may struggle constantly and not have any reprieve. Currently, if a student has a complaint about the way the professor handles their assignments, or if they are not getting the help they need in office hours, they can either chat with their professors individually and voice their concerns, or wait until the end of the semester to lodge their complaints and give recommendations in course evaluations.
Similarly, if professors don’t know what their students are struggling with, they will not know how best to encourage success in their classroom. One way these issues can be alleviated is through open conversation throughout the semester. It may be impractical to expect the school to be change its entire system to send course evaluations out earlier, such as in the middle of the semester. However, it is not impractical to hope that professors would be able to ask their students, whether through anonymous surveys or classroom-wide discussions, what they can change and what the students can do in return to make the semester more productive for everyone.
Not everyone learns the same way, and it’s impossible to teach in a way that will help every single student in every single situation. Generally speaking, the major complaints in course evaluations have to do with the amount of homework, the clarity of the teaching and the ability to contact the professor to ask for help. If these issues were brought up before the end of the semester, it would not only increase the possibility of students succeeding in classes, but it would also ensure professors more positive course evaluations and a smoother semester.
Although the time in which course evaluations are sent out may not be up for discussion, there is no reason students who will review their professors at the end of the semester shouldn’t reap the benefits of course changes during their time attending class. Not only will this increase in communication help students get through the semester and professors maintain a more well-rounded classroom, but it will also build respect between professor and student, encouraging the open, welcoming atmosphere that college is supposed to foster.