There are two primary purposes for Course Learning Evaluations at UTC. The first reason for the course evaluation process is to provide feedback to help each individual instructor improve the quality of instruction. Written comments are particularly valuable in this respect. Thus, students are requested to spend at least 5 minutes responding to the open-ended questions. Open-ended student responses are available to the Department Head, but are used primarily by instructors to help them improve their class in future semesters.
The second is to help UTC make decisions about courses and faculty. The structure, format, and delivery of courses can be enhanced through use of course evaluation results. Numerical ratings from each class are combined to produce class, course, subject, department, college, and university-wide averages, which are made available to the provost, deans, department heads and instructors.
Faculty Evaluation at UTC
All tenure-track and tenured faculty in the University of Tennessee System are required by the “Board of Trustees Policies Governing Academic Freedom, Responsibility, and Tenure” to participate in annual performance and planning reviews as a mandatory term of employment. At UTC, Faculty Evaluation and Development by Objectives (EDO) defines the process for these reviews. The EDO process is based on identifying objectives, establishing a realistic program for obtaining these objectives, and evaluating and rewarding performance in achieving them. Evaluation of faculty performance is an essential component of the EDO process, providing formative and summative assessment of the individual’s performance so that he/she can maintain or improve subsequent performance; serving as a basis for promotion, tenure, salary, and other decisions; and providing accountability with regard to the quality of teaching, research and service. Complete guidelines for faculty evaluation are found in the UTC Faculty Handbook.
UTC Faculty Evaluation Guidelines
All classes are evaluated every semester, other than those courses identified as having one of the following instructional methods: thesis, dissertation, independent study, clinical, co-op, exchange, and student teaching. The Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Institutional Research (OPEIR) administers the course evaluations using online survey software. The application used by UTC, SurveyDig, was selected because of its compatibility with the University’s Banner student information system and its rapid reporting capability. Students are asked to respond honestly and openly to 15 questions, most using a seven-point Likert scale and some open-ended. These questions are related to course learning outcomes, student contributions to learning, course content and delivery, and course instruction. These items were deemed by the Course Learning Evaluation committee to be indicators of student learning. Programs have the option of asking students to respond to additional questions specific to instruction within their disciplines. One evaluation is used for all course modalities (face-to-face, online, hybrid).
Course evaluations are opened to students three weeks prior to the last day of classes. Students access course evaluations through MyMocsNet or links, which are automatically emailed to them. They then have the entire three-week period (through Reading Day) to complete the process of rating their classes.
Shortly after final semester grades are turned in, results of the course evaluations are made available to faculty. Results are available for classes with 5 or more responses or as long as there is at least a 50% response rate. Means, medians, frequency and percent distributions, verbatim responses to open-ended questions, as well as comparative measures are provided to each faculty member. Each department head also is given access to Course Learning Evaluation results for all faculty in his or her department.
Course Learning Evaluation
Course Learning Evaluations are but one of numerous factors considered in the assessment of teaching effectiveness at UTC as described above. Academic administrators and faculty committees use results of Course Learning Evaluations as one source of information when making decisions about faculty continuation, promotion, and tenure, while faculty use them to identify strengths and weaknesses in their teaching and to devise means of improving student learning.
Individual faculty and collective departmental data from these course evaluations might also be used to determine changes to instructional strategies, curriculum, as well as individual courses and sequencing. In this way, these data can serve as indicators of programmatic instructional effectiveness related to student learning outcomes.
There are many campus resources available to help faculty use the results of the course learning evaluations to improve their teaching.
Best Practices Information
In addition, the Walker Center for Teaching and Learning provides numerous faculty development opportunities that are open to all faculty.
Faculty, Heads, and Deans – Access to Course Learning Evaluation Results
Access to the SurveyDig course evaluation system is closed to students at 11:59pm on Reading Day and is therefore not open for students to evaluate courses and instruction during final exams. Results of the process are not made available to faculty until all grades are submitted to the Registrar.
On the day following the grade-reporting deadline, summaries of Course Learning Evaluation results are available for viewing by class, course, subject, department, and college. Viewing access is limited as follows:
- Faculty may only access their own Course Learning Evaluations in classes they taught.
- Heads may view only results for faculty in the department for which the head has oversight.
- Deans may only view results for faculty teaching in departments within their colleges.