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Justin Quaintance

Student feedback systems require reform

By Jesse Stilwell, January 10 2017 —

Everyone has a horror story about a professor whose inability to articulate their expectations had you wondering how they got a PhD in the first place. Or perhaps a professor who didn’t provide clear direction on assignments, wrote exams full of trick questions or lectured faster than anyone could take notes.

Although the University of Calgary is a research focused institution, teaching is still pivotal to its success. Excellence in teaching needs to be a priority when deciding which professors get promoted or who gets the opportunity to teach the students at the U of C. Student feedback is already a major contributor to these decisions, but there needs to be more emphasis on the student experience.

Currently, the only opportunity students have to provide meaningful anonymous feedback regarding their professors is at the end of the semester through the Universal Student Ratings of Instruction (USRI). But this is simply too late and many students might feel they have better things to do than a survey whose results will only benefit future students without addressing their own concerns. 

Professors also do not have to give advance warning about when they will distribute the survey, which means a student could inadvertently miss the class, mistaking it for another sub-par lecture.

Of course, students can always voice their concerns to their professor personally. But for the same reason you wouldn’t walk up to your boss and tell them they are bad at their job, most students avoid these conversations. No matter how awful a professor is, no student wants their professor to think of them as the pompous one with enough nerve to tell them to change the way they teach.

Moving the USRI’s closr to the middle of the term and ensuring professors incorporate the feedback they receive for the benefit of the students who provide it is not an arduous task. This would probably improve the response rate as well.

Most students have also heard of www.ratemyprofessors.com. Many rely on it rather than the official USRI’s to get a sense of what their professors will be like.. This should concern U of C administration and be reason enough to consider creating something similar solely for the U of C or making online USRIs more readily available. Students are already comfortable using the anonymous website and could easily adapt to a new version through D2L.

With a new semester starting, students are preparing to get through another tough term. Many of us are trying to find classes with professors whose teaching works with our learning style. If you do end up in a sent-from-hell class with a professor who slipped through the USRI cracks, all you can hope for is that soon the quality of the education we receive would match the one Eyes High advertises.

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