Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there any evidence that course evaluations are effective?
A: A review of the literature on the course evaluation process suggests that student course evaluations are the most reliable and valid measure of teacher instructional quality presently available. For example, self-ratings of teaching performance are reliable but not valid measurements.
Q: Are the course evaluation results anonymous?
A: The final course evaluations are completely anonymous. No person knows the identity of the original student evaluator when looking at these comments and analysis. When a student completes an evaluation, that student's name is replaced with a computer-generated number. There is a program in place that tracks submission of the evaluations for each student and each course that they are required to evaluate for that semester. The email program automatically removes each student from the list of recipients when they finish all evaluations for that semester. In addition, at the end of the evaluation period we can generate a list of students who did not complete all evaluations and then apply a grade hold to those students. As stated above, we can see only who did, or did not, complete the evaluations in order to apply the grade hold.
Faculty members encourage students to write comments in their course evaluations in order to receive insight into the students’ thinking about the course and ideas for modifying the course, if needed. Further, faculty members cannot see any student comments or the analysis until after final grades are submitted.
Q: Why do course evaluations need to be done before final exams?
A: When designing the course evaluation system and creating the policies governing it, the Faculty Senate had several primary concerns. Two of them were; the importance of maintaining student anonymity and eliminating the potential for inappropriate uses of quid-pro-quo. Specifically, they wanted to be sure that faculty could not trade good grades for good evaluations and vice versa. They also wanted to be sure that students who might have done poorly on a final exam, not retaliate by giving the faculty member a bad evaluation. The intent was to have an evaluation system that was ethically pure and to focus the evaluations on the faculty member's teaching abilities. In order to do this, students must have evaluations completed before exams are given and likewise, faculty must have all grades submitted before they see the results of any evaluations.
Q: Why does the University of Scranton have a grade hold policy?
A: On October 12, 2012, the Faculty Senate endorsed changes to the course evaluation policy for students to improve the response rates on the evaluations. The Senate is primarily concerned with the validity and effectiveness of evaluations with response rates lower than 70%, which has been the recent trend. By 2012, response rates had dropped below 50%. The new policy states that those students who do not successfully complete their course evaluations by midnight of the night before final exams begin, will experience a grade hold. The policy only applies to regular, 16-week fall and spring semesters.
Q: What if I made a mistake and want to redo an evaluation for an instructor?
A: All of the evaluations are completely anonymous. We have no means to discern submissions from individual students in the evaluation database. Therefore, we have no way of finding your evaluation of your instructor.
Q: Why are my full-time professors not required to be evaluated in all semesters?
A: Administration of course evaluations is mandatory for part-time faculty and faculty specialists each term, and first year full-time faculty during fall and spring semesters. In accord with the University Senate recommendation of November 9, 1984, administration is mandatory for all others on a rotating semester/year basis (spring and fall one year, followed by a non-mandatory spring and fall). In practice, this has evolved so that evaluations are mandatory in both semesters of odd calendar years (e.g., 2019, 2021, 2023).
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