I volunteered to be CUPE 3911’s representative to a large committee charged with revising the course evaluation process. This piece is meant to offer information and to keep it short I’ll use headings representing questions and/or topics.
What is course evaluation: Formal course evaluation is the process the University goes through to determine whether courses are meeting their educational and other objectives (popularity, completion rates and characteristics, relevancy ratings by students and others, etc.). Informal course evaluation occurs as well but isn’t dealt with by this committee, e.g., students’ opinions on designated and social media sites, word of mouth advertising, etc.
Why is it necessary to review what currently exists: Current course evaluation process does not produce information considered valid by most who would want to use the data.
How could course evaluation data impact me: There are a number of ways this could happen: inform your opinions about your effectiveness as a teacher; help determine if there is a need for course revision or supplementation to improve the course’s relevancy and/or meet its objectives; contribute to your questions about your workload (too much, too light, need changes); guide discussion at and for your performance appraisal. More indirect influences could also well occur as AU’s Board of Governors reviews its mission, relationships with its students and with funders.
What will be different and when:
Shortly after April 2018 students will be asked to either opt in or out of a mandatory course evaluation questionnaire. After completion of the last assignment/task needed for their course completion, the student will see a pop-up note telling them they must either complete the course evaluation questionnaire or agree to not participate in the process. The committee hopes this change will increase the number of students completing the evaluation process.
The questionnaire has been redesigned to achieve greater clarity and relevancy
Information from other sources (Registrar’s Office, other AU offices) will be “piped in” so information can be obtained without asking redundant questions
Analyses of course evaluation data will be carried out by Institutional Services (as now) using the course evaluation data alone or cross-tabulated with other sources of information collected by AU
Some “weeds”: Data is just that until it become information and information can be accurate or not, and/or used appropriately or not. These are some personal observations relevant to this:
The committee endorses student confidentiality and has no reason to doubt it is an operating principle that will be adhered to during the implementation of the revised course evaluation process.
Course evaluation data may well be part of many discussions at the University with each of these guided/influenced by expectations not a part of the course evaluation revision project. For example, the collective agreement between AU BoG and CUPE 3911 describes and details permitted actions the employer can/should take when engaging in supervision. Each of the AU Faculties has its own descriptions (guidance, procedures, suggestions, etc.) for interactions within that Faculty by members of that Faculty.
Students’ opinions about the course they are taking are important to know but may or may not be valid. We need to ask and ask in the best ways we can think of to get meaningful information. We also need to ask questions of the data, such as: Is it representative of more than one person’s view? Given that biases almost always exist, how can we filter to arrive at less biased information? Is the teacher being blamed when it is the course (design, material, format, etc.) that is the problem?
Plans: The current committee has been asked to continue for at least the next six months to take a look at the results of the revisions and suggest additional corrections and/or improvements.
If any CUPE 3911 member has any comments or suggestions then please send them to Shannon at CUPE3911@gmail.com and she will both collate them for me as well as send them on to me.
Thanks, Mark Dimirsky