MRU students scribe more than a million words about profs yearly
Even if you’ve only been at Mount Royal University for a short time, chances are you have encountered the 21-question Scantron sheet and yellow comment page that are passed out for students to evaluate their professors.
Every semester, the team at Institutional Analysis and Planning transcribes over 1 million words about professors in student evaluations.
The evaluations are an integral part of an instructor’s employment at Mount Royal, so it is important to understand what goes on once you have poured your heart out on that yellow piece of paper.
Over 30,000 evaluations of the faculty occur each school year. Crystal Koch, a research assistant in the Office of Institutional Analysis and Planning has worked at Mount Royal for 11 years.
“It’s because Mount Royal values the student, and the teaching and learning that happens in the classroom, and the excellence of teaching, that they have chosen to go this route,” Koch said.
At MRU, the evaluations are used strictly for employment and professional development purposes. Unlike other universities, the comments are not available to the public.
Koch orchestrates the enormous task of organizing the data received. She said 66 per cent of students are now choosing to write out comments, which is more than ever before. All the Scantron sheets are processed and the student comments are transcribed verbatim.
Koch joked about the challenge of spelling the word “knowledge” incorrectly during transcriptions. “It’s strange to get one spelled right,” she laughed.
She also added that if a student chooses to draw a picture it is described to the best of their ability, although they are usually not very helpful to the instructor.
“Sometimes the drawings are relevant,” Koch said. “Sometimes a student will do a flowchart. We do not make the decision of what gets included.”
The only elements of a student evaluation that are changed by the staff in Institutional Analysis and Planning are if a student chooses to sign their name or fill their evaluation with profanity.
“When we first started doing this, there were quite a bit of profanity in the evaluations,” Koch said. “That is one thing that we edit out, but it is very rare that we get that at all anymore. The students are very thoughtful and conscientious with their comments for the most part.”
When it comes to signatures, Koch explained that there has always been talk of implementing a rule that students must sign their reviews, to “give it more weight,” but the evaluations continue to remain anonymous.
Full-time and tenured staff are only required to have one of their classes evaluated, regardless of how many they teach. The same rule applies for part-time instructors.
However, any instructors that are on a tenure track or on a limited teaching contract are required to have two of their classes submit their reviews.
None of the comments or results of the evaluations are available for a professor to review until final grades from the current term are posted.
The reports are included in faculty members’ personnel files, and results are also discussed with the chair of their department.
Koch encourages students to take 10 minutes to express their attitudes toward the class and the instructor, but if the time allotted is not enough a student can also choose to prepare a typed statement and give it to the employee handling the evaluation for that particular class.