The Ethical Professor

Thinking well and doing good in academia.

The Case of the Consecutive Course Questionnaires

If you follow my blog regularly (You know who you are—both of you....), you know that I like to present readers with cases to ponder. You did so well on a previous case about course evaluations, here’s another one that you might find interesting: Read More

Should you read the course evaluations from your spring course before the end of the Maymester course?

No.

I wouldn't - it wouldn't be fair - because I would ascribe the negative comments to individuals - probably the wrong students (we tend to blame the people we dislike most and or whom we think dislike us most) - and even though I would be aware that I might be blaming the wrong students - I would be unable to not feel a tad negative towards the suspects - and that would affect my scoring of their tests - not necessarily that I would give low scores - I might give high scores to convince myself that I was above such petty retaliation.

No

My gut feeling is that it would not be a good idea to read the feedback. It seems more likely it would lead to a negative outcome than a positive one

more not fewer, please

What would happen if reading evaluations a continuous process rather than an event only following a class? I'm wondering whether there should be any surprises in the post-course evaluations.

Fred Mosteller of Princeton is often credited with the development of the one-minute paper. Basically, students at the conclusion of each class session are asked to think about one topic for one minute, and then write on that topic for one minute. "What would you like to see more of that we did in class today?" Or, "Why would you consider studying more about the main topic of today's session?" " What is one thing that you learned today?" "What is one thing that if it were dropped from this class, that would make the class better?" "How will you use one thing that we covered in class today during the next week?"

Here is a two part question "How would you rate today's class on a scale from 1 to 10?" Then ask "What specifically was done to keep this class from being one point lower? For example you rated the class a 4, what kept it from being a 3?" An alternative "What could be done to raise your evaluation from a 4 to a 4.5?"

These questions are not only formative evaluation questions; the are interventions to get students to think in positive improvement terms, to take charge of their own learning, and to give the professor some information about how students are reacting to the course. Feedback from the professor in terms of changes being made, completes the loop and may head off surprises at the end of the course. Students may find themselves bonded to the professor, because they and their feedback, was influential immediately.

more not fewer, please

What would happen if reading evaluations a continuous process rather than an event only following a class? I'm wondering whether there should be any surprises in the post-course evaluations.

Fred Mosteller of Princeton is often credited with the development of the one-minute paper. Basically, students at the conclusion of each class session are asked to think about one topic for one minute, and then write on that topic for one minute. "What would you like to see more of that we did in class today?" Or, "Why would you consider studying more about the main topic of today's session?" " What is one thing that you learned today?" "What is one thing that if it were dropped from this class, that would make the class better?" "How will you use one thing that we covered in class today during the next week?"

Here is a two part question "How would you rate today's class on a scale from 1 to 10?" Then ask "What specifically was done to keep this class from being one point lower? For example you rated the class a 4, what kept it from being a 3?" An alternative "What could be done to raise your evaluation from a 4 to a 4.5?"

These questions are not only formative evaluation questions; the are interventions to get students to think in positive improvement terms, to take charge of their own learning, and to give the professor some information about how students are reacting to the course. Feedback from the professor in terms of changes being made, completes the loop and may head off surprises at the end of the course. Students may find themselves bonded to the professor, because they and their feedback, was influential immediately.

Great suggestions about more evaluations

Thanks for this wonderful comment! I'm a big believer in the one-minute paper and other ways to (a) find out what's going on in a course before the end, and (b) have students be active. Check out the chapter (Chapter 2 at http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/eit2011/index.php) I wrote about Student Management Teams.

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Mitchell M. Handelsman, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology and a Colorado University President's Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado Denver.

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