Faculty Testimonials

We asked faculty members at VCU how they use their evaluation reports. Here are some of their responses:

I use the information shared by students to engage in continuous quality improvement. That means, what is working and what can be improved. Then, I make changes the next semester. This is really the only way to keep my teaching both informed and fresh.

- Karen Smith Rotabi, Assistant Professor, MSW Program

Listening to students is important. I like when students provide both positive comments and ideas for improving the course. I have changed books based on their recommendations and lecture style. I feel student input in course design is important.

- Jacqueline M. McGrath, Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Health

I am an adjunct professor. I am in my 5th semester and have a corporate background. With this in mind, I greatly value course evaluations. They are critical to me because I don't have years or decades of experience in college-level teaching. So, I sincerely desire the feedback - for real. How I use the feedback depends on what it is. If the feedback says I am doing something well, I take note of it and put it in the pile of "continue" and try not to change it. If I see a pattern of recommendations to change something, I take this very seriously and consider pros and cons of the suggestion. If the change would lessen the learning, I may not make the change. But if I'm indifferent and the students express a preference, I will strongly consider trying something new.

- Jeff Leopold, Adjunct Professor, Department of Management

Student evaluations have helped me improve my teaching every year. I especially value the written comments at the end of the evaluation because they help me decide which activities and assignments are helpful to students in terms of mastering the skills taught in the class and which ones I should discard or change.

- Mary Mullins, Assistant Professor, Core Education

The UNIV 200 program uses our course evaluations in a number of ways. Of course we use them as a part of faculty evaluations, but we also use the student comments to evaluate trends in our teaching and to look at common concerns on the part of students. While the numbers are very useful in telling how prepared students feel for our course and how well they understand the expectations, the written comments also alert us to student perceptions of their learning and work in the course.

- Faye Oliff Prichard, Director of Research Writing, University College

I highly value student evaluations. I feel they are the consumer of my product and they deserve the opportunity to offer input and suggestions. I believe that their evaluations keep the learning endeavors balanced. Thus, I read every evaluation the pleasant and the painful ones. I then talk about them to the next new class and discuss with the new class how I am attempting to integrate evaluation feedback.

- Micah L. McCreary, Associate Professor, Counseling Psychologist, Pastor

Student evaluations have been used to change the course design, methods of teaching and assignments created to meet the objectives. Student feedback assists the faculty in creating/implementing more effective methods of presenting the content and activities/assignments that facilitate learning. Negative feedback is just as valuable and has been used to re-evaluate the placement of the course in the curriculum, remove repetitive content, and adopt methods of teaching that have not been traditionally used in the course. Student evaluations are an instrumental source of keeping VCU as a top caliber university with courses that are applicable, relevant, and prepare students to engage and succeed in society and their profession.

- Angela Starkweather, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

As a graduate student/instructor, the course evaluations have been an invaluable tool in helping me to improve my courses. The feedback I have received has helped me reconfigure my syllabus repeatedly, with changes that range from when assignments are due to the order of assignments to how I go about explaining requirements and assignments to my students. Every time I have read the results of a course evaluation and saw how the students have responded I have wished that they would have communicated so directly with me in class, as I feel that this feedback always ends up greatly improving the course for my next group of students.

- Tom Batten, Summer Program

The data I most use from the online course evaluations come from the comments. Specifically, I use student feedback and advice to redesign my UNIV 200 course each semester so that it meets the needs of the current student body. For instance, last semester, I heard, via the online evaluations, that I was not giving students enough time to complete thorough source analyses. So, this semester, I scheduled an extra two weeks to devote to that assignment.

- Mary Boyes, Assistant Professor, University College

Student evaluations are really important to me. I have used them to adjust course pacing, clarify grading rubrics, and shift order of content and skills taught.

- Cheryl C Magill, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership

I rely heavily on student evaluations as one of the most significant measures of my effectiveness in the classroom and actively encourage students to complete them. In doing so, I always tell students at least twice in class and once via email that evaluations are reviewed both by me and my school. They don't go into a black hole. I stress that receiving their feedback is very important to me personally, and that they should be direct and honest, especially if they have any constructive criticism. Student feedback has been one of the most critical factors in my development as an instructor. I want as many students as possible to submit evaluations and always eagerly await the results.

- Bill Farrar, APR Instructor & PR Sequence Coordinator, VCU School of Mass Communications

Because I am a new instructor, I appreciate all the feedback I can get. I have been a trainer for a very long time and feedback is the best way to hone your craft, get a clear picture of what material works and what misses the mark.

- Gail Moskowitz, Adjunct Instructor, MSW Program

My course evaluations help me figure out what I'm doing right, what I'm doing wrong, what I'm not doing, and what I need to do.

- Peter Henry, Focused Inquiry Program, University College

Student feedback via their annual course evaluations have been useful to me and, I n turn, the Brandcenter in at least three ways, as follows:

  1. Course content—Learning materials i.e. cases/readings/books have been dropped that were either confusing, redundant or that lacked subject matter focus.  And, course content has been modified and/or amplified with the inclusion of assignments related to current business events.
  2. Work load—Surprisingly student workload i.e. Individual assignments, group assignments, parallel reading assignments and in-class assignments have been modified, generally upward, in response to student requests for more work. The reasons given seem to center on student economics i.e. as grad students, they seem to seek the maximum possible return on their investment.
  3. Assignment feedback—office hours have been modified and expanded to satisfy the growing demand for assignment feedback, both before and after submission.

- Donald Just, Professor, Brandcenter

I just listen to the suggestions they give me in the evaluations and I take them seriously. I think students generally have a good grasp on what will help them master course material, and I encourage them to share their ideas with me.

- Katherine D. Walker, Assistant Professor, Focused Inquiry

I tremendously value student feedback! Teachers often do not receive enough criticism, whether that be positive or negative. I am a strong believer in CHANGE; therefore, my student's feedback and written reflections on Focused Inquiry provide me with the confidence to know which aspects of my teaching and the class work very well and the knowledge to know what aspects need change for the future. What my students say directly impacts my teaching and course design. Please help me and all instructors teach our courses the best that we can. We want to hear from YOU!

- Jennifer Selman, Focused Inquiry Instructor, University College

About 10 years ago, my course evaluations were so bad across the board that I wrote the PRISM grant  (the students told my TA "we're trying to get her fired"!!).  We were funded by the US Dept of Education at $1.58M (or 1.85M); this money helped fund a position in the CTE and the University Learning Center; it also funded LONCAPA, some clickers, and the use of tablets.

About 7 or so years ago, I began using guided inquiry/group learning in my large general chemistry course.  One area was marked very low: something like "This course is organized".  I then addressed this very specifically in subsequent semesters in all my classes by sending out frequent email reminders in addition to giving clearer instructions in class, frequently discussing where the current topic fit into the previous topic, etc.

- Sally S. Hunnicutt, Department of Chemistry, College of Humanities and Sciences