The last class of the semester is usually a good one — no new material, you get to leave class early and, in some cases, you get a play-by-play of the final exam. Outside of the standard perks, though, there is another thing I like about the end of the semester: the course evaluation questionnaires or CEQs.
Course evaluation questionnaires are tiny surveys administered at the end of each semester at Memorial to evaluate students' impressions of classes and professors. After receiving evaluation from a prof for four months, CEQs finally give students a chance to reciprocate. I always take full advantage of CEQs with honest and constructive feedback. Most of my classmates, however, do not provide as much insight. After three to four minutes of scribbled writing, I am usually the last one left in the room.
A study from Memorial University's Senate Committee on Course Evaluation, which was completed this time last year, collected information on the use and perceived usefulness of Memorial's CEQs. According to that survey, 49 per cent of professors occasionally use CEQs to improve their teachings with only 37 per cent of professors using CEQ feedback "frequently" or "always." Only about 50 per cent of students agree that professors use CEQ feedback more than a "limited" amount. From this information it really seems that the CEQ tool is not reaching its usefulness potential. This on-the-job feedback from highly involved customers seems like a great way for Memorial to improve the product offered to its students.
In my opinion, the reason for the CEQ's underuse is circular. Students do not provide constructive or any feedback because they do not believe it will make a difference. Professors do not consider students' feedback because they do not get enough useful feedback to represent the class.
To make better use of this tool, both students and professors can make changes. If you are a professor, it is important to make students aware that you care about the feedback. Do not assume students know you value their responses. Cynical students may assume you will ignore the results, so putting a good word in for the CEQ never hurts. Adding extra open-ended questions in the space provided is another way to show a professor takes the CEQ seriously.
As a student, remember the point of the CEQs. In hopes of improving the course offering, stick to parts of the course or the teaching style that can be improved.
Try not to be rude or overly harsh. If your criticism looks like an angry rant or a diary entry, you risk being ignored or skimmed over. It is important to remember that professors do use the feedback you provide. Your best professor may have been very different in his or her first year of teaching. Most importantly, do not be afraid to be the last one with a blue or black pen or pencil in your hand. Your opinion can make the course more enjoyable and educational for both students and professors next semester.
Megan Denty is a fifth-year commerce student. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.