As half the class races to finish their course evaluations and the other half quietly contemplates the questions before them, it is ultimately University of South Dakota staff like Angie Logue who have to sift through end of the semester evaluations.
Logue, who is a secretary for the biology department spends at least three full weeks recording the comment sections of course evaluations to be distributed to professors. Last semester alone, Logue recorded roughly 1,709 evaluations. And this is just in the biology department at USD.
“It’s time consuming, but it has to be done,” said Logue. “I just take it in small steps. After a while, I type so many, they just become words on a paper, nothing more.”
For USD students like junior Leak Kai, the semester’s annual ritual of the evaluation forms can be met with an eye-roll. Kai said many times for her, it comes down to how quickly she can get through the evaluation, not the actual content of the questions, which keeps her going.
“I’ve never had any course that was so bad, I felt like I had needed to make it known in the evaluation,” said Kai. “I’ve never been told the importance of the evaluations, so I never really thought it mattered that much.”
According to Matt Moen, dean of the USD’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Individual Development and Educational Assessment (IDEA) forms issued by USD are necessary means for the universities to determine course trends and to evaluate teaching success versus a need for teaching improvement.
“Sometimes students think their input doesn’t matter,” Moen said. “But it definitely does. It provides the university with advice, and allows us to see where changes need to be made. There are around 2,000 courses offered through USD, so we need student input.”
The first initial evaluation of the forms does not actually occur in Vermillion, according to Pete Pietrzak, head of assessment at USD. After evaluations are collected from each department and college, the forms are sent to the IDEA Center in Kansas, which is a non-profit organization to provide a research program to assess colleges and universities around the country. It is not until the IDEA Center has finished tabulating the evaluations that they are sent back to USD.
From these calculations, Pietrzak uses the information to compare those stats to past years to establish any “red flags,” which Pietrzak said could be professors continually receiving low scores from students.
Even though each course is situational depending on size and course material, Pietrzak said from USD’s past research, the size of the classes has little significance to how students answer questions. In the end, he said, it just comes down to the educational atmosphere.
For sophomore Courtney Plath, she said she has yet to not try on answering her evaluations as truthfully as she could.
“Professors deserve what they deserve,” Plath said. “The evaluations are for (students) in the end, so it’s not true to think they aren’t important to learning.”
Senior Derek Collins, who has filled out his fair share of evaluations, said his investment in filling out evaluations depends on the teacher.
“If it’s a teacher I really enjoyed, I might spend the extra time to really read through the questions, and I’ll put in that extra effort,” Collins said. “I think looking at (evaluations) from a student’s perspective, for as much as we pay to go to school, these evaluations should definitely be taken seriously by USD.”
Reach reporter Megan Card at Megan.Card@usd.edu.