New course evaluation forms to go into effect next semester

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Faculty senate is currently discussing changes to the faculty and course evaluation forms that every student must fill out for every course.

A vital part of any class here at Calvin, these evaluation forms allow professors to see what elements of their courses had positive impacts and what parts need to be changed. To better understand students’ opinions, the Professional Status Committee has suggested two main changes to the forms.

The first change swaps the question of the professor’s helpfulness, instead asking about “the extent to which the instructor established a safe and respectful learning environment for all students,” with a rating from excellent to poor.

The Committee wants to encourage a healthy relationship in the classroom and also believes the question may give students something to write about on the open response side of the form.  The question it will replace has given little helpful information over the years, and is partially asked in other places on the form.

A larger change the committee wants to make is adding a section on specific outcomes from the class. “The current form does not give us much information about whether and what students are actually learning,” the committee explains.

They propose a section where students list up to five skills the professor wants them to develop in his or her class and then rate how much gain was made in each area. The following section asks for up to five different course practices (textbook, discussion or projects for example), and how helpful each of these was.

The two sections will replace questions about the number of hours spent doing homework and the expected grade for the class — questions that students have found difficult to answer with much accuracy. Neither have the questions proven to be “of important value to the college,” according to the committee.

The committee also stresses that these forms are for the improvement of courses only.  They will not be used in the evaluations of faculty by the chair and dean.

Both of these proposals have been sent to faculty senate and approved, but according to dean Michael Stob, the form is not finalized yet as student senate has sent additional suggestions to the Professional Status Committee for consideration. These suggestions will be discussed in February and new forms will go into use at the end of second semester.