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  • Writer's pictureTommy Sangchompuphen

A Plea to Students: Complete Those Course Evaluations

While students eagerly await the release of their course grades, professors, too, are waiting for information that indicates how they’ve performed over the semester—their course evaluations.

Course evaluations, or sometimes called student or teaching evaluations, are anonymously completed by students and used for a variety of purposes by a variety of people. Professors use them to gauge what worked and what didn’t during the semester. The evaluations provide professors with feedback to help them tweak their courses the next time they teach their courses. Law school administrators use them to evaluate their faculty and to make curricular or scheduling changes.

I closely review my evaluations and try to make any appropriate and necessary changes I can during the next iteration of course. As a result, I’ve tried to be more cognizant of the number of “ums” I uttered during class and attempted to eliminate them. I’ve tried to post my PowerPoint slides and other handouts on TWEN sooner. And I’ve tried harder to stick to the schedule of assignments that I posted at the beginning of the semester.

But there are also some things students suggested I change that I deliberately decided not to change for pedagogical reasons. I’ll still discuss all sorts of numbers and stats correlating to bar passage because it’s important for students to know where they relatively sit. I’ll still spend 20 minutes dissecting one multiple-choice question when the opportunity presents itself because understanding the process of answering a multiple-choice question is much more important than simply selecting a correct response. And I’ll continue to tell the same old bad “dad jokes” because, well, I find them funny. (Example: What crime does a person commit when the person maliciously burns down a house after stealing something in it? “ARSONY,” as in “arson” + “larceny.”) Play sad trombone here.

Needless to say, I appreciate students who take the time to comment. I take their opinions seriously. After all, my students are the only other people in my classroom, day in and day out, which means I have to look to them to tell me what they liked and what they didn’t.

But for the evaluations’ results to be representative of students in the course, a certain percentage of students in the course need to respond.

What percentage of students in a course need to respond for the results to be representative? The answer depends on a number of variables, most notably class size. For a class of 20 students, one expert puts the minimum at 58%. As class size increases, the percentage drops.

Although I’m still waiting for my Fall 2017 evaluations, I do know that only 36% of the students in one of my courses—or just five out of 14 students—completed the evaluation, despite several reminders to complete them.

So, here’s a plea to my future students: Please take the time to complete those evaluations.

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