News - November 22, 2018

Evaluating education

In their course evaluations, students can say what they think of the education they are offered. Rightly so; after all, they are paying for a product so they should be able to give feedback on it.

Those evaluations are used not only to improve the courses but also in the personal evaluations of the staff members concerned. In fact, the student evaluations are so important that they are decisive: the higher you score in them, the better.

If we take a look at the questions in the evaluation system – ‘I could cope with the course; everything was clear to me; I knew exactly how my grade had been arrived at, etc.’ – we can see why coordinators can be tempted to make their courses and exams simpler and more predictable. Courses with a lot of maths and other tough challenges consistently get lower evaluations.

Coordinators can be tempted to simplify their courses

Why don’t we ask ex-students two years after graduating which course they still clearly remember? Or which course is most relevant to them in their job now? Which teacher they remember best?

Personally I think I learned the most from courses I didn’t appreciate straightaway or even courses I thought were dreadful at the time.

Higher education is getting more and more school-like. In the short term that might be nice for teachers and students but in the long term we are undermining the depth of the degree programmes and the autonomy of our students.