Course evaluations give UCF students chance to air concerns

Voting in Florida may seem like a waste of time to some, but professors say there is one ballot you won’t want to miss.

At the end of each semester students are given the opportunity to complete an online Student Perception of Instruction form (SPoI), commonly referred to as a teacher evaluation.

“The purpose is to determine if the learning outcomes for the class have reached the students,” adjunct professor Evelyn Jimenez said. “The ratings for each class are then compared to the ratings of the college in general and then to UCF as a whole.”

Melody Bowdon, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, said it is important that students take the process seriously. Each student is notified through the myUCF portal and advised that the responses are anonymous. Professors are not given access to the results until after the semester is over.

“The more substance they can provide, the better,” Bowdon said.

Questions on the SPoI form can include how well-organized the courses were, how well the description explained the course requirements and how expectations were laid out by the instructor. Students will also be able to comment on how interesting the course was for them.

Additionally, there are questions regarding the professor’s performance throughout the semester. For example, students can explain if instructors were respectful of their students, how well they helped students to achieve their goals throughout the course and how good they were at creating the proper environment to help students learn.

“The instructor will receive the written comments and the numerical ratings at the beginning of the next semester,” said Brian Barone, a professor who teaches Italian. “The purpose of the reviews are to give students a chance to make suggestions regarding course content, structure and organization.”

Each question is based on a five-point scale — excellent, very good, good, fair and poor. Students are given the opportunity to participate in a free-response section where they are asked what they liked best about the course and if they had any suggestions to improve the course for future students.

Junior physical therapy major Jennifer Marengo said she believes that the reviews are a way of showing that the school system cares.

“I think it’s a great way to be proactive and give feedback to the teachers as well as our peers,” she said. “It’s a way to strengthen the system and give us what we ask for.”

While the SPoI is an optional form for students, some teachers may make it mandatory so that the course can improve each semester. Although final course exams have primarily been used in the past for establishing student-performance evaluations, those scores only reflect a limited view of a student’s learning ability. The purpose of the SPoI is to evaluate a student’s ability to learn in the environment the professor has provided for them.

“I think they are tailor-made for both students and teachers to improve in the long run,” said Rachel Kinder, sophomore sociology major. “It’s kind of like voting. If you don’t vote, how do you expect anything to change?”

SPoI forms are available the last two weeks of the semester and are a pertinent component in keeping both students and professors on the same page in order to ensure that both parties are receiving the most out of each semester.

“I believe it is very important for students to complete these reviews,” Jimenez said. “If you are having trouble with a course, speak up and communicate. Only a small percentage of students take advantage of this tool. Future students will thank you for it.”

Originally published Nov. 21, 2014