How professors use anonymous course evaluations

"For professors, Gadd said it is important to pray and think seriously about the evaluations they receive." (Photo by: Julia Cameron)

Southern Adventist University offers students the option to fill out course elevations near the end of the semester for all of their classes, and all submittals are  anonymous,

 according to Bob Young, senior vice president for Academic Administration.

“When a student completes an evaluation the system records that an evaluation was received for that particular course by the particular student; however, the data submitted by the student is not linked to the student,” Young wrote in an email to the Accent. “This maintains student response anonymity.”

Professors are able to review students’ course evaluations for their classes after grades are submitted. The evaluations can also be viewed by deans and chairs for each department as well as university administrators,  according to Young.

Southern does not have guidelines for implementing course evaluation feedback, but professors should still pay attention to their course evaluations, wrote Young in the email.

“Faculty are expected to identify patterns and trends within course evaluations and respond to those patterns and trends in portfolios submitted for promotion in academic rank or level,” Young stated. 

He added that inability to adjust to patterns found in course evaluations could prevent professors from being promoted. 

Holly Gadd, dean of the School of Nursing, said faculty should keep an open mind when reading student feedback. 

“I think most faculty probably have a love-hate relationship with course evaluations,” she said. “There’s a lot of good feedback that one gets from course evaluations that are done appropriately and professionally.” 

Gadd said she reads every evaluation submitted to her department and spends time in faculty meetings reviewing positive evaluations and common feedback. 

It is important to consider the impact of a proposed change on the whole classroom and to consider how your students are performing, she explained. 

“If I change this, how would it impact learning overall?” she said, regarding implementing changes suggested through evaluations.  

Gadd said sometimes students can become frustrated with different teachers because of their expectations going into the classroom. She said professors should be open with their students about their teaching styles and why they choose to use those methods.

“I think that it just requires a nurturing spirit on the part of the faculty to say, ‘Here’s why I’m doing this,’” Gadd said. “Providing rationale and encouraging the students to give it a try and to try something different [is important].”

Students should also be considerate when submitting course evaluations, according to Gadd. 

“I believe that God blessed me with a talent for teaching, and it’s reflected in what students say to me,” she said. “But when you get an evaluation that is so contrary to everything, it can be pretty hurtful and damaging to one’s confidence in the classroom and teaching.”

Gadd stressed the importance of thinking about the impact a suggestion would have on the class and considering the learning styles of others. 

“The most helpful way that students can do an evaluation is to be thoughtful about it,” she said, “not nitpicky about every little thing that bothered them, but to really try to focus on a big picture, not just a self-centered thing.” 

Gadd advised students to try adapting to different teaching styles and learning to use different resources that are available. 

“And when there’s not a teaching style that meets your needs really well, find ways to just learn a little bit alternately,” Gadd said. “And so, if the lecture is boring, boring, boring, then see if you can Youtube something that’s on the same topic and that maybe is more interesting and helps you learn. … There [are] so many resources that students [can use].” 

For professors, Gadd said it is important to pray and think seriously about the evaluations they receive. 

“The good comments warm our hearts; the good scores warm our hearts,” Gadd said. “The things that aren’t so good can be even hurtful, but those ones [you] need to pray over.”

She advises professors to always seek to learn and grow and to ask themselves: “Is there a way for me to be more organized or to communicate more clearly — to present a concept in a way that’s more fun, more engaging or interactive for the students as opposed to just lecturing?”

“I think faculty need to realize that what we know about teaching, how to use technology and other kinds of things, and the way our students have grown, what our students bring to classrooms and what their needs are, are different,” Gadd said. “And so, we have to change over time. I think faculty should always have an open mind to that. It makes for the best teachers on campus when they are open to those kinds of things.”

Share this story!

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Leave a Reply