It’s that time of semester again when the Student Evaluation Surveys (SES) are released, and teachers beg students to take five minutes out of their precious study time to tell them how it all went.
The SES are the best way for students to effect change in within their course, but they are not nearly as popular as they should be. There have been a lot of complaints in the past from both students and faculty about the surveys. Students have long since complained that they cannot properly evaluate a subject before seeing the final assessment and that the one-size-fits-all questions are often not applicable to their subjects.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much anyone can do about improving the surveys themselves, since they are administered uniformly across the university from the main campus. Suggestions for faculty specific questions and post exam closing dates, although popular, have not been adopted. The surveys, which were once conducted in class during week twelve, have since been moved online in an effort to cut costs. This has resulted in a significant drop in participation with many subjects unable to receive a 50% response rate. This semester, the university is offering a $500 prize to tempt students into sharing their thoughts.
Although no one would turn down a chance at winning some quick cash, there is another more compelling reason that students should fill out their SES. The Law School takes the student responses very seriously, and no complaint or compliment goes unnoticed. Students should see the SES as a great chance to improve the quality of their degree; checking the boxes can take less time than waiting for the elevator. The comments section is even more valuable; you can tell your lecturers what you didn’t like about the course, or how much you loved their teaching style.
One lecturer who wished to remain anonymous (let’s call him Mr X) stated that he changes his course every single year in response to comments made by students in the surveys. The SES can also have effect beyond individual lecturers. In 2011, many subjects involved a 100% supervised exam, and now, in response to student complaints about the pressure that is involved, several subjects have been required to introduce interim assessments, and none of the first year subjects have 100% assessments.
However, whilst it is fine to say what you didn’t like about a subject or lecturer, comments should maintain a certain level of professionalism and bear upon the subject. In the past, the anonymity of the SES has led some students to leave comments like “you have ugly shoes”, “this room is too cold”, “more free food” and “that jacket is ugly”. Such comments are not only entirely unhelpful, they are also mean spirited and petty.
So next time you feel the overwhelming urge to procrastinate, open up your SES and tell your lectures what you think of the subject and of them, but remember that no one cares what you think about their clothes.