Students share first impressions of digital SET evaluations

By: Grace McCormick – Staff Writer

This semester, the University of Dayton introduced digital student evaluations of teachers, or SET, to students and faculty. As the semester comes to an end, these evaluations  are making their debut on campus. Faculty and students remarked on the new system positively and negatively.

David Wright, director of the office of curriculum innovation and e-learning, explained that the university switched over to digital evaluations because learning and teaching are constantly changing; therefore, new questions and a new delivery mechanism are necessary.

“The questions are now targeted to discover student reaction to instructor preparation and organization, class learning environment, student-teacher relationship and outcomes for the class,” Wright said.

Many faculty members, such as teacher education professor Joseph Watras, have a positive outlook on the new evaluations.

Watras said he believes that they save time since they no longer have to be taken in class. He believes that class time is valuable, so the option to do them outside of the classroom is an immediate advantage.

“All my students seemed to know about them [the evaluations]. Some have already finished them, too,” he said.

Students mention one of the downsides was that the new evaluations were not advertised well.

“I only saw one mention of it before the evaluations came out, however, it was fairly easy to follow and complete,” Ryan Smerke, a sophomore pre-physical therapy major, said.

“There was almost complete universal support from faculty and students involved in designing and testing the new SET for having no mandatory requirement for completing the surveys,” Wright said.

Addie Rumer, a sophomore psychology major, sees the optional evaluations as a downside.

“I feel like students will not do them if they don’t have to. Everyone is busy right before finals so teacher evaluations are not the first thing on a student’s mind,” she said.

Wright, however, hopes that a sense of “paying it forward” can be an incentive for students to complete them.

“Student opinions matter,” Watras said. “The students cannot tell me what to teach, but they can tell me what obstructs their learning and they can offer suggestions about ways to remove those obstacles.”

Susan Brown, faculty development coordinator, said having more student feedback is really helpful for faculty to know what is working and what needs to be adjusted, and ultimately, that is good for students.

“Teachers are not just delivering information to students, but are reliant on feedback to know what works and what doesn’t work,” Wright said, stressing the importance of evaluations. “I hope that students see the new SET as a way to improve this precious interplay.”

“Overall, I think the online teacher evaluations offer more room for students to comment on positive and negative aspects of teaching. The classroom evaluations had less room to add comments,” Rumer said.

“Students have occasionally asked whether the surveys are anonymous – so we reassure them that they do need to login so we can match their surveys to the right classes, but faculty never see the names of students,” Wright said.

While students and faculty are still getting used to the change in teacher evaluations, there was an overall positive reaction.

“I prefer the online evaluations because it allows for more time in class to review material that is being covered,” Smerke said.

Brown said that in general she has heard the surveys are easy to use and the faculty is pleased to be able to get results sooner, with more feedback from students.

Wright said students have until the end of Friday to complete their surveys for fall classes.  Information about the SET and the link to login and take the surveys can be found at go.udayton.edu/set.