Jasmin Sadegh | Engin-nerd
An honest evaluation
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 03:04
When I fill out the orange course evaluation forms, I darken some bubbles, flip over the page and draw a picture of a snowman or a flower, depending on the season. While I suggest that almost any question would be better than the ones on the evaluation forms, below are three questions that I would suggest putting on next year’s forms. Four juniors, Amy Harrington, Cameron Yu, Ben Harwood and Andrew Summerfield, graciously answered some of my new course evaluation questions in relation to the civil engineering classes we had this semester.
Question 1: Where do you sit in class and why?
One of them responded that his seat in class depends on how much the class is worth his attention. When he sits in the front, like he does for Steel Design, it’s because the professor demands his attention. When he sits in the back, he is letting the professor know that his daydreams are more interesting than the lecture. Another student agreed but then added that his poor vision prevents him from sitting as far toward the back of the classroom.
This question has its own exceptions. One of the students is the perpetual kid in the back of the class.
“I am a chronic nose picker,” he admitted.
Question 2: What does it take for you to raise your hand in class?
For this question, the consensus was generally that besides a tickle under the arm, students raise their hand in class when they have a question. However, there were a few honest responses. Someone said they raised their hand to help bail the professor out of a poor situation, like an uninspired, unanswered discussion question. In contrast, some of the students added that for other classes, they had to check their bowels and be fully confident that their question was worthy before raising their hand.
Question 3: Would you rather have a beer with this professor or take another class with him?
This question clarifies question numbers 8 and 15 on the standard evaluation form: How do you rank the professor and the class? Clearly there are some professors that are just cool. You know they were the cool kids in school, they dress well, etc. Other professors might be super geeky but taught you to love a class that you thought you would hate. If you have found a professor that you would do both with, then you’ve probably found a great mentor at this school.
But what happens to these course evaluations? Some complainers post them on Jumboaccess and RateMyProfessors.com, but do the professors even read them? Is there room for improvement in the confined curriculum in an engineering course? Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Christopher Swan, who blushed a little when he found out he had a chili pepper for hotness on RateMyProfessor.com, proved that he receives our transcribed course evaluation forms. One of the evaluations even had a clipart picture of a snowman.
Professor Swan examines his evaluations to look for a small change in ratings that give an indication whether a new project should be continued for next year. He said, generally, if the evaluations are too low, the chair of Civil Engineering has to figure out how to deal with the course and the professor. But Professor Swan also acknowledged that some of the courses topics are just dry, and we just have to deal with it.
Well if we get to rank the professors, I thought it would only be fair if Professor Swan could rank the students. Although he technically couldn’t rank the goodlooking-ness of the students or the fun-ness of the class, I think we should add a component to the evaluation process so that he can have the opportunity to give us a chili pepper, too.
Jasmin Sadegh is a junior majoring in civil engineering. She can be reached at Jasmin.Sadegh@tufts.edu.