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07 December 2015 @ 02:19 pm
Measure by Measure  
It's that time of the semester yet again--time for students to complete the course evaluations. And once again, I ruminate on the validity and reliability of these forms students must complete. I am not the only one who questions this either. Here is a piece from a year ago that outlines much of my concern: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/09/26/345515451/student-course-evaluations-get-an-f. Let me review the points made and add my own 2 cents.

Response rate: I get weekly updates right now. A little more than 50% of my students have completed the surveys. I cannot make them do this. The course is online, and so is the evaluation. I know I will get comments that indicate this response rate is less than satisfactory, but there is nothing I can do about that at all.

Interaction with students: In an online environment, most of my interactions are also online via email, course platform, and other apps I use for the class. I have had a few phone call discussions as well, but given the fact that students are working full time in the schools, there seldom seems to be time to have a lengthy conversation.

Work load: Face it: you must read a ton of books in my courses. Literature courses demand lots of reading. And add to that the objectives I am held accountable for, the work load is a hefty one. Each and every semester there are comments about the load. I commiserate but only to the degree that I can say, "I know this is a lot of work. But if you want to be a school librarian, you have to know lots of books."

Policies: I do not accept late work. I do not permit do-overs. Some students test those policies only to find they are indeed policies. Failing students seldom evaluate the course objectively. I can show strong correlations between evaluations and the number of grades below an A each semester. Students all want As and are disappointed (and sometimes a tad more) when they realize they will earn a B instead.

This is not to say that I have not gained from the written comments on evaluations. I learned that students want lots more comments even when they are making excellent grades. I have learned some things about pacing and due dates. Sadly, I have also learned that the screencasts I put together for all assignments often go unseen.

Okay, time to descend from my soapbox. The evaluations will be what they will be (que sera sera). I will move on to the next semester tweaking and refining and trying my best to meet the needs of my students. I know my success cannot be measured in a form.
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