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Course Evaluations: More important than you think

By Jackie Mundry, Contributing Writer

As most of the returning students here at UNH know, students fill out course evaluations at the end of the semester. But what happens to those evaluations when they’re gone?

Course evaluation questions are separated into different categories about the professor, the course itself and grading. These questions are based on a 1-5 scale, five being the best. Many times, professors will leave the evaluations until the end of class and give students five to 10 minutes to complete them. UNH students have seen their classmates rush through them to get out of class. However, a small percentage of students are often seen writing on the back of these evaluations with comments, concerns or even recommendations of how the class could be run in the future. These students are helping their professors, even if the feedback isn’t necessarily positive.

Many students are unsure as to what happens with the course evaluations when they finish them. These evaluations go to the dean’s office in Thompson Hall; each department chair receives copies and there are copies in the library for students to look at while deciding what classes to take or which professors to take their classes with. Many students don’t take advantage of this, mostly because they don’t know the evaluations are available to them.

Students also frequently complain about these evaluations. Some students believe that professors don’t take their comments seriously and use that as an excuse to rush through and not take the evaluations seriously themselves.

According to Associate Dean Alasdair Drysdale, professors actually really take student evaluations seriously and try to be responsive to the comments made.

“Chairs always look at them [evaluations] often in conjunction with peer reviews,” Drysdale said. The chairs of departments also offer praise and advice after reading the student comments.

Technology is always changing, therefore professors teaching styles are always changing with each passing year. Course evaluations help teachers stay up to date because what works for one semester may not always work for the next.

Course evaluations are also a major part of professors’ performance reviews. This will come into play if a professor is up for tenure, another type of promotion or are moving within the university. The chairs of each department need to write an annual evaluation on each of the untenured professors in their department.

“When a professor comes up for promotion and tenure, departmental review committees and the elected college promotion and tenure committee pay close attention to course evaluations, and consistently poor teaching can certainly impede advancing to a higher rank,” Drysdale said.

These evaluations are made up of notes that the department chair takes when they shadow their untenured professors’ classes as well as the course evaluations filled out by students.

Even though tenured professors are unlikely to lose their position, every few years, tenured professors have a post-tenure review of their teaching styles to make sure that they don’t start slacking and stop performing correctly.

The dean’s office is very passionate about their professors’ teaching styles and how well their students are doing with these teaching styles.

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