New midterm course evaluations seek student feedback

Course evaluations are generally sent to students toward the end of the semester. Photo by Jon Mirador

Hannah Eason, News Editor

Mid-semester course evaluations, anonymous online surveys determining a student’s satisfaction in a class, are piloting in VCU classrooms this semester.

While end-of-course evaluations are required for all courses, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Gypsy Denzine said the extra feedback is wanted and needed. 

“We are moving forward in some courses with midterm course evaluation tools,” Denzine said. “That came up as a result of the conversation with our students in May.”

The conversation, held between VCUarts students, VCU President Michael Rao and several VCU officials, addressed six demands made by VCUarts students during a sit-in at the provost’s office two weeks prior. An additional course evaluation in the middle of the semester was one of those demands.

“We thought that was a really good suggestion,” Denzine said.

Denzine, who started her role at VCU in August 2018, said she uses midterm evaluations in her own classroom.

“It’s not required,” said Denzine, who has more than 25 years of experience in higher education,  “but I want that feedback.”

Senior Thora Toloczkl said her previous evaluations addressed classes needing more structure and organization toward the end of the semester.

“A lot of people get their grade, then they hate their professor,” Toloczkl said. “But if you did it in the middle of the year, I think that would be better.”

The fashion merchandising and political science double major said she also felt that the current course evaluations were too broad, and could be more effective when specified to the courses’ departments.

Yale, Princeton and Berkeley include midterm evaluation samples online as teaching resources, with some including questions divided by subject.

Sophomore Peyton Kapel said he could see the additional evaluations being effective.

“An end-of-course evaluation tells them what to do for the next class,” the marketing major said. 

“But if you tell them during midterms — and they change something — it’s going to help you toward the end of the course when it gets harder.”

Kinetic imaging major Skyler Kaczmarczyk said she thought midterm evaluations would be better that the end-of-semester surveys.

“If you’re giving feedback at the end of the semester, it’s for the next person,” the sophomore said. “It isn’t really going to affect you in any way.”

After students complete course evaluations, faculty members read them and department chairs review them. They are later included in the professor’s annual review. 

The surveys are referenced when a professor is up for promotion, when all evaluations go through several levels of peer review.

Student Troy Carpenter said he didn’t think the course evaluations “made a difference,” or that many students would complete them.

“Most students don’t even do the end-of-year one,” Carpenter said. “So I know they’re not going to do the mid-year one.”

Denzine said the school is trying to get more students to fill out the questionnaires, welcoming positive and negative feedback.

“We want very specific examples and details behind their comments,” Denzine said.

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