New Course Evaluation Form to be Implemented Fall 2021

Carolina Carneiro '24, Associate Life & Style Editor

In an attempt to reduce bias and provide a more student-centric approach to course evaluations, the college will implement a redesigned form for the fall 2021 semester according to Professor of Earth Sciences Peter Sak, who was involved with the form’s redesign and presented the changes at the March faculty meeting.

The newly designed form will allow students to type in all answers to questions instead of filling out a paper form with numerical values and handwriting comments.

“There’s no possibility of recognizing a student’s handwriting, and there is more opportunity to discuss positives and areas of improvement,” said Sak. 

The new questions are also designed to minimize bias and yield more holistic comments from students. 

They “[tie] to the learning goals of the course, so rather than asking ‘how am I as a teacher?’, it’s ‘tell me about the learning environment in the course that I am teaching.’” This change was made with the intention of allowing faculty members to reflect on their experiences over time in a certain course.

Sak highlighted that the purpose of the course evaluation form is not to facilitate a comparison between faculty members, but rather to assess how students are learning in a class and compare the results over time. 

 

The former course evaluation form involved extensive work that was not recognized by other faculty and students. After students submitted the form, academic department coordinators had to color in the dots again by hand to make sure that the forms would be scanned properly, scan them, and send a digital copy to the appropriate faculty members, as well as sort them into the appropriate folders. According to Sak, this was not time-efficient and one of the motivators for the new form. 

When asked about how other professors reacted to the changes, Sak mentioned that “teaching is something that all faculty members hold near and dear at Dickinson and are sensitive to what changes may look like, so I think there are people who are wondering what this will look like.” He expressed confidence that the new form is truly more effective than the one previously used.

When asked about how the idea for the new form came about, Sak said that a subcommittee had discussed the issues with the old form and a more effective way of gathering students’ input on their learning for approximately 18 months. “This was the solution that was unanimously recommended by that subcommittee.”

The form will be implemented at the end of the Fall 2021 semester, so students will be able to evaluate their courses using it in late November or early December 2021.