Guest Editorial

Committee on Teaching Development

It’s that time of year again. No, not springtime — course evaluation time.
We represent the faculty’s Committee on Teaching Development, and though we know you’re all incredibly busy, we are writing to ask that you take time to fill out your course evaluations for this term.
We’re grateful to the editors of The Lawrentian for their support on this issue.
As the editors noted in a recent staff editorial, response rates for course evaluations have been dropping steadily. Last fall, just 57 percent of the students in a typical class completed their evaluations. And last term, only about 41 percent of students did so.
Why is that a problem? Well, because course evaluations are the main source of feedback for Lawrence faculty. We can’t improve our performance if we don’t know how we’re doing — and we can’t find out how we’re doing until you fill out your evals. It’s really about that simple.
In discussing the issue with students, both formally and informally, we have been asked a few questions. Students have wondered if evaluations are really confidential, and they’ve also expressed doubts about the willingness of some professors to change or revise their courses.
On the first point, we can assure everyone on campus that evaluations are indeed confidential. Instructors are never told who did and didn’t fill out evaluations. What’s more, names and ID numbers never appear on the summaries sent out to instructors on Voyager. So, although your experience on some other Web sites may lead you to wonder about confidentiality, you can rest easy this time.
On the second point, our sense is that most instructors are grateful for your comments and suggestions. We can’t vouch for every single person on the faculty, but all of us have made changes in response to course evals — and so, we’re quite sure, have the vast majority of our colleagues.
Before closing, we might offer one more observation. On some campuses, course evals are mandatory.
You can’t get your grades or complete your registration unless you turn them in. We don’t think that makes sense for Lawrence, and we hope that you’ll confirm us in that judgment by taking a few minutes to fill out the forms before taking off for the summer.
The best way to make sure that evals do not become mandatory is to show that the current system is working — and working well.
Thanks again to the editors of the paper, and thanks to all of you who have been turning in your evals. It means a lot to us, and we want you to know that we appreciate what you’re doing for us and your fellow Lawrentians.
Committee on Teaching Development: Arno Damerow, Pete Gilbert, Julie Haurykiewicz, Nick Keelan, Karen Leigh-Post, Arnold Shober, Tim Spurgin and Nancy Wall