When student evaluations are just plain wrong

This week I finished teaching a course (we have a quad system, in which some courses meet for half-semesters.) In the last two sessions, the students did group presentations for their final projects. At the close of each of these two days, I reminded the students that I had set up an anonymous survey to get their feedback on what they thought worked for the course (and thus they would recommend be continued the next time it is taught) and what didn’t.

After our last class, I browsed over to the form that is collecting the responses, and read something similar to this: “The grading was pretty harsh for the final projects. I would have appreciated if the expectations for the project were presented more clearly. I wish the rubric would have been given out to the students beforehand so that a student does not receive a grade that is both unexpected and entirely unfair.” And, “It would have been helpful to know the grading rubric for the group presentation, so that we could have been adequately prepared.”

The kicker? I posted the rubric to our learning management system (LMS) on January 23 – over one month ago. I also posted an announcement on the LMS to draw their attention to the document, as well as announced it in class.

I quickly posted an announcement to our LMS, saying that I was troubled that the students felt that they did not have enough information to adequately prepare for their presentations. But I also reminded them that the information was available for over a month before the presentations.

And now, my mind is already jumping ahead to those all-important official evaluations. I can imagine that similar comments will be made there. With the kind of informal evaluation I am running now, I can have the opportunity to correct misinformation directly. But not all students will see the announcement, and it is likely that some students will still report that they did not have any idea of how they would be evaluated.

I’ve got in my mind some other methods I’ll take to deal with the situation. But I’d like to hear from you. What would you do in such a situation? What steps can a faculty member take to keep incorrect information from making it into evaluations in the first place? How can a faculty member address incorrect information? Let us know in the comments.

[Image Creative Commons licensed / Flickr user BillsoPHOTO]

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