Opinion: You need to fill out your course evaluations

Giving course feedback is anonymous, a good place to vent and it helps professors with future job applications — you can take five minutes to do them.

A+laptop+screen+displaying+a+webpage+that+indicates+the+course+feedback+website+for+New+York+University.

Kevin Wu

(Kevin Wu for WSN)

Aksha Mittapalli, Contributing Writer

A laptop screen displaying a webpage that indicates the course feedback website for New York University.Finals are right around the corner. As we get buried in assignments, our inboxes overflow with unread emails. In the flood of end-of-semester messages, one particular email fails to pique students’ interest: “Reminder: Submit your Course Feedback!”

Administered at the most inconvenient time of the year, course evaluations seem relatively optional, completed only when professors denote time for them at the end of our final class, or as a gift we bestow only to our favorites. I understand that it is normal for course evaluations — now Course Feedback, thanks to an NYU name revamp — to get lost in our ever-growing list of responsibilities at the end of the semester. But we must take those five minutes from our schedules to complete them, even for the professors that we don’t have particularly strong feelings about. 

Course feedback consists of final surveys provided to students by NYU to gauge students’ reception of instructors’ teaching style, class structure and general pedagogy of certain teachers and courses. These surveys are essential in providing an anonymous and honest review of a professor’s course and teaching, and they are an excellent resource for students to give feedback to contribute to strengthening the course for future students. 

Beyond giving students a chance to vent their frustrations, however, course feedback is integral for professors — especially younger single-contract professors, adjunct faculty and teaching assistants. Universities as big as NYU will often have a large number of untenured professors in order to maintain cost efficiency. Course feedback provides a measurable metric for professors to understand how to develop a pedagogy that works for themselves and their students. 

Miriam Juarez, a teaching assistant for NYU, said course feedback provides her with something to reference in job applications when she looks for future teaching opportunities in academia.  

“It’s huge to have a record,” Juarez said. “Even if you don’t go into academia, there is a pipeline of Ph.D. students who teach K-12, and that would be equally as useful to have some proof that you’ve been good at your job.”

For early academics, job posts will often ask for evidence of teaching effectiveness, a section in an application devoted entirely to the teacher’s course feedback. In completing your course feedback, professors will gain a robust teaching portfolio. At NYU specifically, course feedback is especially important for adjunct faculty, who are employed on a contract basis.

It’s not just about filling out the course feedback, though. The whole purpose of these evaluations is giving constructive feedback. Professors and teaching assistants care about how students think they can improve. 

“I’ve gotten really beautiful, long ones just saying how much they like me, and I need those as well, but it would be helpful to be told exactly what they like,” Juarez said. 

One factor that NYU may consider is providing incentives for completing course evaluations. Some University of California, Berkeley professors, for example, grant things like extra credit via additional points to their final grade. 

“An incentive, like a bump in our class participation grade, would definitely increase the percentage of course evaluations completed.” Raina Rathod, an NYU sophomore said.

Regardless of whether NYU provides some motivation to complete your course feedback surveys or not, filling them out is still a good idea. The anonymous report goes straight to the inside, something far more effective for instructors than RateMyProfessor. Our professors have worked incredibly hard to earn their positions, and were likely eager to teach you all semester. The least you can do is tell them what you thought of them. 

And it only takes five minutes.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Aksha Mittapalli at [email protected]