Laura Gibbs

Making Good Use of Student Evals

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on May 16, 2018

Today we received the results of our end-of-semester evaluations. Asking students for hurried feedback in a stressful/busy end-of-semester week seems to me about the worst possible way to get feedback about a class, so I make sure to build in other kinds of ways to get feedback from my students during the semester (like this feedback-about-feedback effort, and also a mid-semester evaluation). That being said, I always read the comments from the students on the institutional evaluations to see what I can learn (I hate the numbers, but I really value the comments), and I also collect comments across classes/semesters about grading and about creativity, adding each new set of comments to the existing collection (and a shout-out to Michelle Pacansky-Brock who suggested this whole idea of collecting comments).


So, that's what I did this morning: I got access to the evaluations, read the comments from all three classes, and then collected the comments about grad- (grading, grades, etc.) and creat- (creativity, created, etc.). For those of you who get student comments back in digital form, where it's easy to harvest the comments, I strongly recommend having an ongoing collection of comments based on keywords you want to track. Having a focus like this helps me see the comments in a new way, and having the task of harvesting-and-copying the comments is also a good way to get me to really appreciate what each semester's evaluation is contributing to the overall development of my courses.


Here are the results:


link to collection: What students say about GRADING


There were only a few comments about grading, but not many, and that's actually great: I really want the students to not even be thinking about the grade, and instead just to be focusing on the learning process itself. For more about my approach to grading, see (I don't grade). And I have to add #TTOG, the hashtag at Twitter for "Teachers Throwing Out Grades" (I am not the only one!).


It was so nice to have certainty about what my grade would be. This course was ideal in that you get out of it what you put into it. If you work hard and put the effort in, you'll get the grade you want.


I loved everything about this course; the online assignments, the completion grades, the ability to write blogs on our own and actually get better at writing, everything!


Grades were entirely based on completion, so long as you put in the work you didn't have to stress about grades.


There was an emphasis on learning the course material rather than worrying about grades.


link to collection: What students say about CREATIVITY


Putting an emphasis on creativity goes hand in hand with getting rid of grades. I really want the students to get in touch with their own creative powers and see what they are capable of! And I am very pleased that students had more to say about creating than grading in the comments I snagged this semester:


I feel like the course helped me improve my creative writing, and it was cool to come out of it with a shiny portfolio website displaying my work.


Strong points: ability to be creative and express yourself through stories.


This is my favorite course! I really like working on my creative writing and love that I could do it on my own schedule.


It allowed students to be creative and also learn about writing.


The specific strong points of this course was how Laura encouraged everyone to have fun with the subjects and be creative.


This course was incredible! I had so much fun being creative and writing in this course.


It was a very good class that exposes the student to numerous Indian epics and characters. It also incourages creativity and exploration which are gernerally discouraged in other classes.


The core curriculum gave a great foundation, but the real learning happened in the process of creative writing (researching people, places, and stories encountered). There was encouragement and highly effective feedback on the development of my project, and I had more fun in this class than I have in years at school.


There are SO MANY WAYS you can bring creativity and open-ended assignments into any course. And if you can do that while removing grades, your students will not be trying to guess "what you want" but instead discovering what they themselves are capable of. That's been my experience anyway, and I have no doubts that by helping my students (re)discover their own creativity, I am offering them something of value for their future, whatever their career path might be.


Creativity... it's a process! From

This applies to creativity in our approach to teaching too! :-)


creative process: from failure to I'm brilliant