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New instructor evaluations coming

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PNW will change its instructor evaluation system from Idea, which is partnered with Campus Labs, to Explorance Blue at the start of the summer semester. In Fall 2017, students will be able to complete evaluations through Blackboard.

Geoffrey Schultz, vice chair of the faculty senate and professor of education, said the three reasons to change the evaluation program was unification, lack of return rates and lack of student participation in filling out the evaluation form.

“When you don’t have at least 60 percent return rate, the evaluation is not valid. We needed a better company that would give a better return rate, and we also wanted to make it easier for the students to fill out,” Schultz said.

Emily Hixon, associate professor of education, formed a committee wherein the goal was to find an online evaluation system that could work for PNW as well as draft new questions for the system.

“The committee looked at programs that would better serve the university’s needs. Hopefully, Explorance Blue will be relatively seamless for the students, especially since we drafted new questions,” Hixon said.

For the fall and spring evaluations, the online questions consisted of 12 total, including the open-ended comment at the end of the evaluation. This is a combination from the eight that the Hammond campus had and the six that Westville had last year. The questions for the evaluations will now consist of two course-specific questions, three instructor-specific questions and an open-ended comment question. Colleges are also encouraged to write up their own questions that they would like included for the evaluations.

“We developed questions that are very general and easy for the students. The instructor’s name will be on the evaluation questions. We did not include overall questions, because in a study performed at Purdue University in West Lafayette it was found that there was bias with minority and women instructors,” Hixon said.

Both Hixon and Schultz said that the evaluations are important for students because they play a part in deciding which instructors will get tenure and merit raises and also help instructors improve their teaching.

“I think it is an improvement,” Schultz said. “I have been on tenure committees and we have looked at the evaluations from students. When I was department head, I looked at the evaluations. This is a better instrument.”

Hixon said instructors are allowed to give incentives to students to allow for better response rates. Schultz is against this idea, however.

“I think you should be evaluated on performance of teaching, not on the incentives you give,” Schultz said.

Alicia January, assistant professor of psychology, believes that the evaluations are important for all professors. She hopes that more students will fill them out.

“As a new instructor, these evaluations are helpful. It helps me to see what students are getting out of psychology and how students feel with my teaching. This helps me to improve,” January said.

In addition to the end-of-the-semester evaluation, January uses a mid-semester evaluation so she can understand how students feel when they are in class.

“I will use the feedback to help me make the changes in my teaching. It is important that students realize that professors use these evaluations. It is in everyone’s interest with these evaluations, because the instructor improves and the students can receive more from their courses,” January said.

Hixon hopes that more students will take time to fill out the evaluations since they will be shorter and easier to use.

“Students are in a unique experience and have a unique perspective and that is why it is important to hear from them. We are doing all that we can to make the evaluations easier for the students, and we hope Explorance Blue can do that,” Hixon said.

1 Comment

One Response to “New instructor evaluations coming”

  1. Melanie Shebel on August 5th, 2017 7:43 pm

    As a student, I never felt it was difficult to fill out course evaluations. I try to fill them out every semester, but there are times when I just can’t. I understand that there is this thought that it’s bad to ask students to fill out evals after the semester is over, but I disagree.

    I feel that course evaluations should be open until the weekend after final exams. Final exams SHOULD be a part of the evaluation. I’ve had courses in math where the final exam was written by the department and not by the professor and covered wildly different material than the course.

    In addition, course evaluations are open when I do not have time to fill them out. Dead week is the worst possible time to ask students to fill these out.

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