Writing Course Evaluations
NEW!!! – Working Draft – Guide to Narrative Evaluations (.pdf) – This guide was written by a group of faculty building on a few years of evaluation analysis and discussion. It is meant as a working draft and our hope is to make evaluations easier to write, make them more useful to students and the outside world, and to spark conversation about our practice of evaluation writing. This guide will be revised pending faculty use and discussion.
Div II Final Meeting Questions (.pdf) that support the writing of a Div II evaluation. These are just my own questions developed over years of working with all of you and affected by the evaluation guide. When I use these, I find my notes from the meeting are a good draft of the evaluation. Use them/adapt them if you’d like. — Laura Wenk
Below are some older posts about narrative evaluations – much of this has been folded into the guide above.
Purposes and logistics: Course evaluations serve a number of purposes. The most important is for students to understand what they are doing well, what they need to work on, and what their next challenge might be. The course evaluations also help advisors and committees guide students to new experiences, and they help the advisors/chairs write Divisional evaluations and graduate school/work recommendations that articulate students’ abilities as well as describe what they have accomplished. Lastly, the narrative evaluations help the institution assess learning across students, that is, to describe the effects of a Hampshire education.
On the Hub, there is a box where you can write a paragraph for a course description and one where you write evaluative comments. The course description is generally a re-worked course description from the Hub, but it is written in the past tense (what was done in the course). In order to make the transcripts shorter, this paragraph is NOT automatically included in the narrative evaluations. So, you will want your evaluative remarks to be able to stand on their own. But don’t let that push you to include a lot of description.
The recommended length for evaluative comments is about 1000 – 1500 characters. If you write them in a word processing program you can use spell check and also use the word count tool, which will tell you numbers of characters (including spaces). The truth is, making them longer usually is associated with adding too much description.
Writing evaluative comments: On your syllabus, you should have goals for students – what they should know, understand, or be able to do as a result of your course. These help students understand what to expect, but they also guide you in constructing your course and evaluating student work.
Goals –> Assignments to work on these abilities –> Feedback on work –> Evaluations
When you write your course evaluations, you have evidence from student work about how they did relative to your goals for them. Write evaluations that let the student and others know how they did. It is difficult to do this if you have not spent time thinking about what makes for stronger work.
Here is the presentation on Critical Reflection and Evaluation (pdf) from the April, 2015 Faculty Meeting’s discussion on self reflection and writing evaluations that help students set goals.
If you have not spent time articulating this for the goals you have for student work, you might benefit from reading rubrics written by others – not because we want you to score students using a rubric, but because they often contain helpful distinctions about student work. View the Hampshire College developed cumulative skills rubrics (.doc) and Division III rubric (.doc). You might also find the AAC&U VALUE rubrics (pdf) helpful. They were created by college faculty from across the country.
Of course, you also have expectations for students: participation, engagement, and project/assignment management that might not be listed as course goals, but are also discussed and evaluated.
Remember: In writing evaluations you:
- Cannot name other students (e.g. students in collaborative groups)
- Cannot mention mental or physical health issues of the student you are evaluating
- Should use the student’s preferred pronoun. It is good practice to remind students that you are required to write evaluations using preferred pronouns and that if they have a pronoun listed in their directory profile that is not the correct pronoun for official college documents, they should change it to reflect the correct pronoun.
Mid-Semester Evaluations – These are required in all courses for students who entered that academic year (first years and transfers), though you are free to do them for all students. Students are asked to do a self evaluation the week before you are asked to do an evaluation of them. They can do this on theHub and/or you can ask them to do it in a format you can collect. You can give guiding questions if you want them to consider their abilities or growth in particular dimensions of the course. Some people ask all students to do a self evaluation at that moment and ALSO use the opportunity to do a mid-semester course evaluation. Here are examples of questions one could ask of students that include self and course mid-semester evaluation (Word document). One suggestion – if you do a mid-semester course evaluation, make sure students know what you heard them say and what, if anything, you will be doing differently as a result of their feedback.
Div II Evaluations –
- Suggested Practices for Div II Evaluations – This work is the result of four Division II Evaluation Analysis workshops with faculty from four schools meeting in small groups, each building on the work of the prior group.