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What are your thoughts about the use of class evaluations?

Posted on February 9th, 2010 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Anne Cardale at the OLLI National Resource Center Asks OLLI:
What are your thoughts about the use of class evaluations? Do you use them? How do you manage the results? Are they useful to your Institute? Do your instructors use them as as a tool to help them manage their class design and delivery? Or, perhaps you feel they are not very useful in the grand scheme as they are only filled in by those who finish the classes anyway?

Do you have a standard form which you use for course evaluations? Would you like to share this evaluation form with other Institutes? If so, please send a copy of your form to the National Resource Center for inclusion on the web site.

7 Responses to “What are your thoughts about the use of class evaluations?”

  1. If we want to say that members have a role in the program, they are indispensible. We use them to decide whether instructors return or not, and as important, to remedy problems. Our intrumemnt has 10 rating items we used in my academic department (adapted for OLLI purposes) and students are encouraged to contribute written comments, which help in improving instruction. written comments and rating are shared with the member Curriculum Committee.

    We look at the average rating of each item to diagnose strengths and weaknesses and then I communicate with the instructor about improvment (unless the instructor will be let go). Same for written comments.

    For those who leave the class before the evaluations, we encourage them to tell us why, and we also keep records of classes with steep dropoffs. Interestingly, I find that not all unhappy people leave early - some stay to the end and express misgivings in evaluations.

    I’ve posted the form on the National site.

  2. Our class evaluation includes questions about the course and about the instructor. Members rate these factors rate on a Likert scale. There is also room for write in comments. The results are shared in summary form with the curriculum committee – most won’t take the time to read through the individual forms. We share the individual forms with the individual instructors. I sent the form to Anne for posting.
    We just started offering an on-line version of the class evaluation form which facilitates following up with people who were not in class the day the paper forms were passed out (if they have email). If we have the resources we mail a paper form to those without email who did not get a form at class.
    We also have a program evaluation form. This asks questions about members’ experience with the program and about their willingness to recommend the program to others. We also solicit course ideas on this form. This form has been sent to Anne for posting too.

  3. We have pared our form down from a full page edition which asked participants where they lived, age, education history, ethnicity, etc…

    I use them for almost every lecture and course.

    The good - they provide information as to where my advertising dollars are best used, i.e. where did they hear about this course?

    - they give hints as to other courses that might be well received.

    - I can use them as gentle reminders of why we did not invite a lecturer to return

    - I use them as reminders of why we did invite someone to provide a course after a lecture’s good reviews.

    The bad - they can be very self-fulfilling prophecies, i.e. those that attend a lecture on ‘Human Origins’ ask for more of the same, and those who attend a lecture on a history or music theme, also, ask for more of the same.

    - less than half of lecture attendees fill out the evaluation

    - usually filled out by those with views on opposite sides of a spectrum, i.e. they hated the lecturer or they loved her, the presentation was dull versus terrific, etc…

    They give our participants the opportunity to give input and be a part of the curriculum process.
    Our form has been sent to Anne for posting.

  4. #4 by: Anne Cardale

    Lou Miller, OLLI at Sonoma writes:
    We find evaluations useful for four reasons:
    First, they provide students/members with a way to voice their feedback and feel important in the process
    Second, they provide instructors with valuable information on how what they are presenting is being received
    Third, the Curriculum Committee uses these in deciding whether to invite an instructor back
    Fourth, the Executive Director can help faculty who need some additional direction become better instructors

    We have been summarizing them for the instructor, the Advisory Board, the Curriculum Committee and the Executive Director. We make the originals available to the instructors if they request them

    We have used Faculty Evaluations since the program’s inception nearly eight years ago. We find them extremely useful and can’t imagine a program that does not include them. We supplement them with informal feedback and attendance at the course over the eight week period.

    We ask on the form “Is there any course you have dropped this session? Why?” That information helps us get feedback from those who have dropped a course or switched over to another course and are not there when the evaluations are passed out.

  5. We find the course evaluations to be a valuable tool for feedback. They can help us determine instructors we would like to have return and courses that should be repeated. All responses are entered into a database and the instructor receives a report. Many instructors have told me how much they appreciate the feedback.
    We encourage everyone who registered for a course to complete the evaluation, even if they dropped the course. We distribute (and collect) the evaluations at the last class session and also make them available in our member lounge and on our Web site. We ask members to submit their evaluations within two weeks of the end of the course.
    On our evaluation we also ask for recommendations for courses and instructors and capture these each term for the curriculum committee.

  6. Evaluations make me think…”can’t live with them, can’t live without them”.

    “Can’t live with them”…has to do with the fact that each time we have a new committee, turnover, they want to reinvent the wheel, develop a new form. I don’t believe there is a perfect form and it is a very subjective thing. Not to mention, if we wanted to compare info over time we couldn’t with the form changing all the time.

    “Can’t live without them”…As others have said:
    ** Evals give members a voice and I would never not have them - even if it was just for the perception that we want members’ input - which it isn’t - WE DO WANT IT
    ** One issue is that many members don’t want to hurt course leaders’ feelings so they aren’t honest about the less positive things
    ** Occasionally course leaders receive input that is useful to them to improve their course or their leadership style - after they get over the sting that is
    ** We have a small team - 2 from our Curr Comm and 2 from our Resource Comm (complement to Curr Comm) and they summarize evals for each class. As others said - this information IS useful in terms of deciding to have a course leader lead again and/or to point to ways that we can work with the course leader to help him/her do a better course.

  7. #7 by: Jon Neidy

    We evaluate all aspects of our program and believe that it has helped improve our OLLI immensely. Some of our best ideas come from the evaluations.

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