Every semester, we ask the students to assess the semester. While I have been doing research, this has been left to the hard-core sociologists in the department, and so the evaluation has had the shape of a surey where students got a sheet full of questions and a few options, and then a few lines in which to say what they felt about some of the points. This would be processed, presented and forgotten.
I like to do this differently. So this year the information study - which is my baby - went back to the evaluation methods I found most efficient: a qualitative evaluation in groups, where all could comment on what was said. I split the class into six groups. Each group was responsible for one topic:
- practical techniques: schedule
- practical techniques: feed-back and assessment
- theory: The reading-list
- theory:the lectures
And so on. Then I asked each group two questions:
- what has worked well this semester?
- What would you suggest should be done in orderto make things work even better?
I had spoken to the student representative what she felt about this before I started the process, then Monday I told all the students and gave out a list of questions. Today I put them into random groups and let them work it over in the break after a lecture and before the weekly meeting, which is a meeting where we discuss how things go, where teacher's give information to students and students give information to teachers, where they and we just get together and discuss important topics. This meeting was when we did the evaluation.
The students did a wonderful job. They are, after all, the ones who know the semester, and who can see what is good and what should be changed. They wrote their suggestions down, introduced them to the class and noted down the objections from the others. Now I have summarised their comments.
Although I asked for positive and constructive comments, they don't paint a rosy picture of the information education. There are a lot of things that can be done differently. But there are things which are good which we might never have thought to ask about. The weekly meeting for instance, was on the list of good things, and I hadn't even thought of a group to assess the teacher/student communication. Perhaps equally surprising but also good is that the students really appreciated that manner of assessing the semester. And for me the bonus is that now, instead of a lot of information about which lecturer is an idiot or which book the students haven't read, I get a list of suggestions, several of which can be easily implemented and can make the fall semester 2003 a lot easier for the next set of students.