Olivier: Online feedback forms still ineffective

alexandra olivier

Let’s be honest, no one fills out Internet surveys. OK, “no one” is harsh – maybe 15 people fill out Internet surveys.

Survey response rates are generally low, it doesn’t matter how convenient they are. If students glance at and exit out of the surveys that pop up when you go online in the TECH Center then students will undoubtedly react the same toward online student feedback forms.

The semester is ending, summer vacation or in many cases summer classes loom ahead and the professor you are providing a detailed review on is a professor you will either never encounter again or is teaching a class that doesn’t necessarily apply to your major. Obviously, students are going to check either the “Agree” or “Neutral” boxes and not even bother to answer those open ended questions on the back.

The form being online may be more accessible, but like a survey it doesn’t motivate the individual to sit there and spend the total five minutes to fill it out. It isn’t laziness that deters students. They just don’t  want to be bothered with it.

It is rare that student feedback forms reach a dean and turn a light bulb on that maybe this professor isn’t working out. It is also rare that professors receive these forms in a timely fashion where they can sift through the vast amounts of “you suck”s and “you’re awesome”s to find some type of feedback that could be rendered as useful to enhance their teaching styles.

According to the Faculty Senate Student feedback form committee, various proposals were made in the White Paper with recommendations to better the feedback form process. Administering a pilot in the fall of 2010 the committee noticed no significant change in response.

“In addition, because the results did not indicate any significant change in the type of student response from the online SFFs, the committee recommended that all faculty other than pre-tenure be provided the opportunity to volunteer to participate in an expanded spring 2011 semester pilot,” according to the White Paper.

I do not foresee a change in response levels from Fall 2011 to Spring 2012.

As connected students and faculty alike are to the Internet, there is no real incentive for students to evaluate professors they may not encounter again. It will benefit professors, however, because the forms will be readily available online but since the responses are low there may not be enough responses to truly benefit them.

Alexandra Olivier can be reached at alexandra.olivier@temple.edu.

1 Comment

  1. This was my first year teaching at Temple but I was a professor at another university for ten years before coming here. (There, student feedback forms were online, and a high proportion of students did complete them. A lot of it has to do with institutional culture.) What I really want to say, though, is that many of us take these evaluations VERY seriously. I basically begged my students last fall for thoughtful comments…I find open-ended comments more helpful than metrical ones. But I promise you the day those evaluations are available, many of us read them with GREAT interest,

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