Two Words to Improve Student Evals
Today I met with one of the advisors in our “Center for Teaching and Learning” to see if there were some simple steps to improve my student evaluations. They aren’t terrible, especially considering my role is more of an administrator than teacher, and that I am in charge of some of the most difficult and hated courses on campus. In light of those factors, I’m actually doing well! But if there is a way to help bump them up that is simple, why not?
After discussing the course with the advisor, she said there are two simple things I can do (more of) that should boost the evals—transparency and care.
Transparency is letting students see the mechanics of the course policies—what are the reasons why we do what we do in the class. I agree wholeheartedly with this, as I discussed a few months ago. Now, there are some things it is appropriate not to publicize to maintain order, and as this is a public blog, I won’t reveal them here (sorry guys!). In general, people like to know that systems aren’t arbitrary. God even has some transparency with the Israelites when giving the Law—“do this because…”
To be more precise, ‘care’ means to demonstrate care. This is all the more important when you don’t have a daily hands-on role in the running of the course. For example, I periodically walk through the labs and visit with students, see how they are doing and offer assistance. Also, I meet with every one of them individually for personalized career counseling. This shows that I’m not some chemistry ‘shadow government.’
Other things I’ve found that matter are responding quickly to student emails, addressing concerns quickly, communicating when things are delayed or changed (grading is taking longer than expected, sign up lists are not ready when projected, etc.), and so on.
Unsurprisingly, it seems the key to good evals is not a brilliant teaching style, knowing the material cold, or any of that stuff. The key is the human touch. It’s also an effective way to minister to them.