Town Hall: Future of Online Course Evaluations, April 19, 2017

The Future of Online Course Evaluations at UCSC
A Conversation About Changes in How Students will Evaluate our Teaching
Wednesday, April 19, from 2:30 to 5:00 at Stevenson Event Center

Major changes are now underway for student evaluations of teaching (SETs) at UCSC. The campus is moving to a new online course evaluation system, expected to roll out in fall 2017. In partnership with the Committee on Affirmative Action & Diversity and Committee on Academic Personnel, the Committee on Teaching has been charged with developing a more unified campus practice for evaluating teaching, and advising the administration on the implementation of the new system.

The committee is considering substantial changes to our current course evaluations. The changes aim to shift the culture and use of course evaluations away from being the de-facto primary method by which teaching is evaluated, and towards using them as a tool to assist instructors in improving their courses and reach the goals they have for their students. The shift additionally aims to address persistent questions about bias in the current SETs. Obviously, this ambitious agenda raises many questions and we need your help to accomplish this task.

The goal of this town hall is to inform and solicit feedback from faculty, instructors, and students about the potential changes to course evaluation, which could have important widespread impact on all faculty, as well as students, shifting how teaching is assessed on our campus. We urge you to attend the Committee on Teaching’s town hall, the agenda is tentatively planned as follows:

Part 1: What’s Being Considered, and Why (2:30 pm)

  1. Introduction and Overview: What’s Changing, and Why (Matthew McCarthy, COT chair)
  2. Bias Issuesin student evaluation of teaching (Miriam Greenberg, CAAD chair)
  3. Evaluations Now: how departments are currently using them: “Quick Facts” - Current Department Practices from COTs survey - (Kimberly Helmer, COT Member)
  4. Center for Innovations in Teaching & Learning: New Support for Course and Professional Development (Jody Greene, Director)
  5. Short overview: Options for Change (COT; see key questions below)
  6. Question and Answer Period

Part 2: Breakout Session: An ambulatory, Interactive Discussion and Feedback (3:50 pm) - Questions to Think About Before the Town Hall

  1. ​​A Proposed Culture Shift​: ​Is it a good idea to try to change the main function of online evaluations away from “rate my professor” (“summative” goal), toward mainly an asset in helping professors reach their own teaching goals, improve their courses, etc. (“formative”)?
  2. Other Measures: If this shift took place, what other measures would be most useful to evaluate teaching for personnel actions? What’s really possible, and what might be unintended consequences? See UC Academic Personnel Manual; pg 4-5 for UC policy.
  3. Rates of Return​: ​What are the best ways to increase evaluation return rates? What are lousy ways? Options range from formal course participation credit, extra credit, early or delayed access, to bringing back in-class evaluation time.
  4. Time windows​: ​Currently, course evaluations are open to students from the 9th week until the 1st day of finals week. Should this be changed? Should it be customizable, by course and/or department?

Part 3: Open Discussion with Refreshments (4:30 pm)