The Office of the Provost has launched a new online faculty comment form — available via Portal — for students to send feedback on courses and professors to academic deans.
Evaluation forms cannot be submitted anonymously, but students’ names will remain confidential.
The original proposal to faculty senate highlighted two primary purposes of the form.
The first was “to make the deans aware of issues that should be addressed immediately, rather than in the context of end-of-semester evaluations.”
The form was also created “to evaluate courses with five or fewer students enrolled, as these courses are not currently evaluated via paper evaluations due to concerns about protecting student identities.”
According to the proposal, “the deans will report annually to the Professional Status Committee regarding the number and nature of comments received and the follow-up provided.”
In addition, “deans would handle any issues that come to their attention via this tool in accordance with the established faculty handbook procedure.”
The online form states that comments can range from complaints and concerns to compliments and praise.
“This form is for those times when you’ve got something you want to communicate directly or confidentially to the dean, or if you’re in a class with five or fewer students,” the evaluation form reads.
“You may use this page to submit any comment about a faculty member or course. Maybe it’s a concern that you have, or maybe it’s a note of appreciation. Either way, use the form below, and the deans will see that it receives immediate attention and is handled appropriately and confidentially.”
The form points out two alternative ways in providing feedback, either directly to the professor or through the formal end of semester course evaluations. The new online forms are meant to supplement, not replace, course evaluations at the end of the year.
“We would really prefer, whenever possible, [that] the student interact directly with the professor,” said Heidi Rienstra, executive assistant and office manager at the provost’s office. “We don’t want to turn it into [exclusively] electronic communication rather than face-to-face.”
The idea for the form originated with a desire to enable students to better communicate their comments or concerns about a class.
“It was the idea of many of us when we realized we needed another way to give direct feedback,” said Provost Claudia Beversluis. “There’s a lot of emphasis in higher education on accountability — for faculty, for students. That’s one reason why we ask [students] to sign their names to this.”
Beversluis also thinks that the new submission forms will not only benefit students, but also professors.
“I think faculty will find that it’s helpful for them as well,” she said.
“They will get feedback from students who are concerned and students will be encouraged to be more direct and we can use this process to improve the student and faculty experience. It’s not a lack of trust; it really is a desire for open communication.”
The forms are also intended to help reduce problems with the course that are not typically addressed until the course ends, said Rienstra.
“Way back when we started thinking about this, we [asked], is there any way to help with mid-semester adjustments?” Rienstra said.
“Because sometimes when faculty members read their end of the semester evaluations, they don’t even see those until after they’ve turned in the grades, and sometimes they’ll say, ‘Oh, if I had only known, I would have done something differently.’ So this is an opportunity for them too.”
While primarily intended for classroom use, the new evaluation forms are not restricted to academics, said Rienstra.
“It’s also intended to be available for sports teams and coaches,” she said. “It’s not just what’s in the classroom necessarily. We’ll get things to the right places if they come in.”
The link to the new faculty comment form can be found here: www.calvin.edu/go/comments-on-faculty.