The End of the Story

At the end of each semester, college and university students across the country fill out their Course Evaluations. These take a number of different forms and final results. While the quantitative scales used for the results vary, the questions asked usually share a common theme: issues of the instructor grabbing your interest, usefulness of the course, the timely return of assignments and exams , and of course, the instructor effectiveness.

Instructor effectiveness, like its equivalent at other institutions, is the most important number at my college for awarding performance raises, faculty awards, and promotion and tenure. It is the main metric I have to report for annual reviews and department assessment. Many times, students also get to answer qualitative questions about the instructor’s and the course’s strengths and weaknesses. These are the answers most instructors care about. Sure, I look at my effectiveness score. If it is a high score (3-4), I’m happy; if it’s low (0-2.9) I am disappointed. But no matter what, I always read the comments. Comments are any instructor’s bread and butter for course improvement. But it’s hard to improve the course when the comments take aim at the main course material—women in history—and complain that it is unimportant.


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