These are great questions. I know many of us would love to get more feedback from our students on what we can be doing better.
Why are they only after we take the class?
I think the main reason for this is so that the instructor does not have the opportunity (or even the appearance of the opportunity) to adjust a student's grade based on feedback that the student provides. As an instructor, we do not see the instructor evaluations until after grades have been submitted. While the evaluations are anonymous, it is sometimes possible to determine with some degree of certainty who wrote a particular comment.
How are we to make a suggestion to a professor anonymously while participating in the class?
If you want to make a suggestion to a professor anonymously while participating in a class, I would recommend printing the suggestion and placing it in the instructors mailbox (typically located in the main office for the instructor's department). If you are concerned that your cover may be blown if someone sees you delivering the suggestion, you can always mail it from off campus.
Complaints can be a bit harder. While some instructors may be open to hearing and responding to a complaint, it can often be difficult for the instructor to fully understand the complaint just based on the few words that are included in the note. Often it may require some dialog for the instructor to understand the core issue and perhaps provide some reasons for why (s)he does something a certain way.
Whenever you have a complaint, I believe it is important to first address this with the instructor so that the instructor has an opportunity to respond. If the instructor is not open to addressing the complaint, I would suggest discussing the issue with the instructor's department chair.
And now for a bonus question and answer...
How do I increase the chances that my feedback will be acted upon?
The vast majority of (perhaps all) faculty at MSOE want to be responsive to the needs/wants of our students. We want to know what we can be doing better. Keep the instructor's perspective in mind when making suggestions. Focus on things that the instructor can control. Good suggestions should be specific and provide enough detail for the instructor to readily understand.
Here are some comments that I received from students last quarter in SE1011:
"explain how you want us to comment our code" - [Helpful] This comment was specific and clear. I provided a link to a document that described how to do it and a few examples, but I did not take class time to explain how to do it. I should have spent class time explaining this so that I could more fully describe what should be included and why it is important. This is something I have done differently in the past but slipped up on last quarter. This feedback is valuable because I can make specific changes the next time I teach the course.
"I think that he needs to give us some more exercises in class, so the student can follow up in each issue in the programming class." [Somewhat Helpful] It is useful for me to know that at least some students could benefit from additional exercises. However, the comment is somewhat confusing to me. The first part makes it sound like I should be doing more in class exercises, but the second part makes it sound like I should be assigning more optional homework but announcing it in class. I think what the student is suggesting is that I introduce more exercises in class (going over what the exercise is about, but not solving it) and then allowing students to work on these exercises outside of class, but I'm not certain.
"I think having a morning SE class is a bad time due to everyone just waking up." [Not Helpful] Unfortunately, this isn't helpful for me since I do not have control over when the class is scheduled.
"Talk a little more about the nuance of things we talked about." [Not Helpful] I don't have any idea what this means.
The end of the quarter evaluations are seen by more than just the instructor for the course. The instructor's department chair sees the evaluations. Also, when an full-time faculty member is up for contract renewal, his/her evaluations are seen by a committee of select faculty who make a recommendation on whether or not the instructor's contract should be renewed. If you have complaints that have not be addressed by the instructor that you believe are reducing the quality of education you are receiving, you should take the time to write about these issues on the end-of-the-quarter evaluations. As with suggestions, the way your comments are expressed can have a significant impact on how useful they will be to those making decisions. In this case, you should consider your audience to be the department chair and faculty evaluation committee. Make sure that your comments are clear and provide enough detail. If you have a particular complaint, I would suggest including the following information:
- What does the instructor do/not do that is a problem?
- How does this reduce your ability to effectively learn?
- What steps did you take to resolve the issue?
- How did your instructor respond?
Some of us do survey students during the term to see what we can be doing differently. I find it helpful to do such surveys for a number of reasons. Here are a few reasons:
- I can improve my teaching techniques by incorporating feedback
- Students see the varied perspectives of their classmates (I share the results with the class. At times one student's feedback will be in conflict with another's, e.g., one student thinks I'm going to fast, another thinks I'm going to slowly).
- I can explain why I may choose not to adopt a suggestion.
I more or less concur with what Dr. Taylor has said, but want to further stress the FORMAL MSOE complaint process. If after attempting to communicate (either directly or anonymously) with the instructor, your issues remain unresolved, please follow the FORMAL process, because that ensures that this gets kicked up to the Chief Academic Officer's level and it WILL get acted on. Please see:
for the formal process. This process is a requirement for both regional accreditation through HLC IHIgher Learning Commission) and for federal Title IV eligibility, so MSOE does take it seriously.
Deborah Jackman, PhD, PE, LEED AP
CAECM Chair, Professor, and LIaison Officer to the Higher Learning Commission
I'm starting to come to the conclusion along with many other students about the evaluations we take on professors. Why are they only after we take the class? While it is helpful for future students, it is leaving current students out. My question is, where can we go if we do have a suggestion for a professor or maybe have a complaint about one? I use suggestion and complaint as separate things but include them both because it entirely depends on the professor. How are we to make a suggestion to a professor anonymously while participating in the class? I would prefer anonymously because if they were to get offended, well they determine my grade and I'm not about to put that on the line.
Is there a way through blackboard or the HUB to make this happen?