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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Course evaluations make a difference

By Matt Homer

As the semester nears completion, it brings with it the opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Every student’s mind is full of thoughts about the previous three-and-a-half months–confusing instructors, unfair exams and moments of epiphany and encouragement. Most students encounter a hodgepodge of good and bad experiences. The semester’s end is also the time for students to decide their paths for spring–what classes to take and which instructors to choose. Course evaluations can help in both situations.

First, evaluations afford students the opportunity to give feedback about their courses and instructors. John Francis, associate vice president for academic affairs and undergraduate studies, said this is one of “few opportunities for students to have an impact.”

Course evaluations provide information that may be used by instructors to improve their teaching and course experience. They are also used by departments and may influence an instructor’s standing or salary. When an individual is up for review as part of the retention, promotion and tenure process, course evaluations often play a role. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, retention, promotion and tenure allows instructors to move up at the university. It can make or break their careers. The compilation of many student evaluations can send a message that an instructor is worth keeping or, in a few cases, worthy of the boot.

Second, course evaluations benefit students when they are choosing future courses. Although many students may not be aware, previous evaluations are available online as far back as 2001. Trying to decide which teacher to take or what course might be best? Looking at previous evaluations can give a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into. They are available online in the Campus Information System. Students must log in and then click on “Student Course Evaluations Results” under the registration heading.

Of course, students should also keep in mind that course evaluations are essentially satisfaction surveys and don’t give a complete representation. Looking at the course syllabus, among other things, is also important.

U students benefit greatly from this open and accessible evaluation process. In fact, Francis said he believes the U is fairly unusual in this regard. He pointed out that few other universities have a system-wide set of uniform course evaluations that are open to student scrutiny and are comparable across all areas of campus.

So, when you evaluate your courses, take your time. You’ll not only be helping your instructors improve, but you’ll also be giving future students the chance to make an informed decision. And when the semester has finished, be sure to look over previous evaluations for the courses you plan to take in spring. If you’re trying to decide between several choices, this could be the deciding factor.

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