The Case for Course Evaluations

I don't know about you, but my to-do list right now seems never-ending. With final assignments piling up, I feel like I don't have a spare minute. That's why I always feel a twinge of annoyance when I see this e-mail pop up in my UTmail: Pictured: Course evaluation e-mail That's right; it's that time of year again. UofT has started its merciless campaign to get us to do something, when there are already so many somethings we have to do! I have never completely understood why UofT times these course evaluations for the absolute worst stretch of the academic year possible, but since that's the way it is, I think it's best to approach it with a positive attitude.  I know that you may be feeling tired, stressed, and a little fed up at this point, but don't take it out on the poor course evaluations! They really are only trying to help. Here are some of the ways in which course evaluations strive to make UofT better: They inform the higher-ups of how we're feeling: The information gleaned from our course evaluations is passed onto instructors, chairs, deans, the provost and the president. No, the president of UofT is not going to sit down and personally read all your course evaluations (there are 84,000 of us after all), but that doesn't mean that he's not interested in hearing your voice. Summaries of the findings made through course evaluations will be passed around to all the important decision-makers, who will then take them into account in their professional capacities. They help instructors improve: You know how we write essays and tests, instructors correct them, and we're supposed to learn and grow as a result? Well, this is our chance to flip the script. Now we get to be the evaluators, pointing out our instructors' strengths and weaknesses so that they can be aware of them moving forward. They improve the courses we take: Is there a particular book you read in your course that made you fall in love with the subject matter? Did you feel like those weekly reports did more harm than good because they stressed you to the hilt? Were you feeling the Comic Sans font that your professor insisted on using for every Powerpoint presentation? Now is the time to share what worked for you in terms of your learning experience in your courses... And what didn't. If the Faculty starts hearing a ton of Comic Sans-related complaints, chances are you'll be in for a blissful, beautiful, Baskerville-filled future.  They help your favourite professors out: I don't know about you, but I have had lots of fabulous professors over my four years here. I'm talking about the kind of professor that makes tax law cool, that makes jokes that are actually funny, that explains concepts so clearly that you start to wonder how you ever didn't understand them. Did I mention she made TAX LAW cool?? When you get a professor like that, you want to show your appreciation. What better way to do that than to let the university know how awesome she is? Added bonus: course evaluations can be used to help bolster a professor's case for a promotion or tenure. My tax-law-touting-sunglass-wearing-super-organized-pun-making professor gosh darn deserves a promotion, and so does yours!
Pictured: Skateboard riding prof
We need to encourage this sort of professorial conduct. Image credit:
They create a wealth of student feedback Do you ever look back after you finish a course and think to yourself, "Wow, I really wish that someone had warned me that this course would mostly be about Kant. I really kant with Kant. That Locke course I could have taken instead? I would have had that on locke!" No? Your thoughts aren't formulated around shoehorned-in puns? Okay, well you probably understand the sentiment. It's nice to be informed about what you're signing up for because each class is a significant investment of time and money. As we all know, course selection is no walk in the park. Our course evaluations let everyone go into that process better-prepared, as the information provided is accessible to all students on Blackboard. 
I know that you feel like you don't have five minutes to spare, but course evaluations are worth the five minutes they take. I have heard from so many students that they don't feel as though UofT really cares about them as individuals. Well, course evaluations are one small way to make your voice heard. Seize every opportunity you can to share your knowledge and provide your feedback, and we're on the right track in terms of making UofT a more caring and considerate institution for its students. Course evaluations don't take long, you can do them online, and you can save them at any time and come back to them later. Although this is a stressful time and you may be feeling a smidge bitter, course evaluations are not the enemy! Be honest, be detailed, and be constructively critical; everyone at the university will be better off for it! I'm going to leave this pump-up jam here for you. It's conveniently five minutes long, so crank it up, open up your course evaluations, fill them in, and feel empowered!

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