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The how and why of course evaluations: your input is valuable

The first block is almost over and that means that you will soon complete the courses you attended. Of course, we hope you enjoyed your courses and took them with great interest. At the end of each block, we ask students to evaluate the courses they have taken by means of an evaluation form.

On this form, you as a student can indicate (anonymously) how you experienced your education and whether there are any points for improvement that you would like to pass on. This information is very important for your teacher, your programme and our faculty.

What happens with the course evaluations?

After you have filled in the evaluation forms, the results are processed into reports for each course. Teachers, the programme committee, and the programme director use what you have written down to improve the quality of the courses and education more generally. Your recommendations are taken seriously, and your feedback helps to improve the courses for the coming academic year.

It is very valuable for lecturers to know what students thought of their courses and to know which elements are appreciated and work well. In addition, the evaluations are important for your programme as a whole. So, you fill in such an evaluation form not only for yourself, but also for the students who come after you. In this way, you help to improve teaching and education, and you contribute to keeping the quality of your programme high.

Your input is valuable

Course evaluations are incredibly important: your input is needed to know what is going on. Do remember that an evaluation form is not a 'customer assessment' or 'customer review'. Unjust criticism and inappropriate comments contribute nothing and can even be hurtful to your teacher. Therefore, fill in the evaluations in a serious and constructive manner, and give concrete examples. Only in this way will your input be useful and be acted upon.

Tips from teachers on completing course evaluations

Teachers Eden Lutz (Public Administration), Valtr Troy Mandemaker (Security Studies) and Michel Michaloliakos (Public Administration) give some tips on completing the course evaluations.

‘Choose to be effective and not simply express your frustration. You can do the latter very well at home.’

What tips do you have for students when it comes to completing course evaluations?

Eden Lutz: ‘Try to put yourself in the teachers' perspective: if you were teaching this course yourself next year, what would you change? Be as concrete as possible by giving examples and make a clear distinction between form and content. Both are important to reflect critically on!’

Valtr Troy Mandemaker: ‘When filling in the evaluation forms, it is important to keep two things in mind: (1) provide specific feedback and concrete examples and (2) do so in a constructive manner! Remember that your evaluations are read by educators with an interest in improving your quality of education.’

Michel Michaloliakos: ‘When filling in an evaluation form, always keep the following question in mind: how can you make or keep the course more educational? Answering that question is fruitful feedback. Choose to be effective and not simply express your frustration. You can do the latter very well at home.’

What is done with the results?

Eden Lutz: ‘They are read by a lot of people - including the lecturers themselves, so that's important to be aware of. The evaluations can send an important signal if something has really gone wrong within a subject. But even when things are going well, we as a team always discuss a subject based on the evaluations; what should we keep next year, where can we make improvements? Also, of course, as teachers we always want to improve ourselves, and feedback from students plays an important role in this.’

Valtr Troy Mandemaker: ‘For course coordinators and tutors, the open-ended submissions offer insights for how to improve course design and assignment planning for the upcoming years. The Programme Committee and Programme Director aim to detect themes within the evaluations which may be relevant to improve the quality of education at a more general level.’

Michel Michaloliakos: ‘It is always an exciting moment, when the evaluations come in. This applies to all teachers, young and old. That way we get an insight into how students experience our courses and how we can improve them. For that reason, we also always look back at last year's evaluations. Evaluations play a big, crucial role in educational innovation.’

‘By thinking constructively you contribute to the overall quality of your study programme, thus guaranteeing the value of your own degree!’

Why is it important to take course evaluations seriously?

Eden Lutz: ‘Studying is essentially a reciprocal process - you are part of a knowledge community. Not only do you help lecturers and future students in a very concrete way with your feedback, but by thinking constructively with them you also contribute to the overall quality of your study programme, thus guaranteeing the value of your own degree!’

Valtr Troy Mandemaker: ‘In the past, properly filled-in forms have shown to lead to lasting change. The student evaluations offer you the chance to take ownership over your own education, provided that constructive and specific feedback is given. On a personal level, the evaluations offer a critical moment in which students can reflect on their own learning goals and whether the course followed met students’ own expectations.’

Michel Michaloliakos: ‘As a student, you stand on shoulders of giants, namely those of the many previous generations of students. Make sure the next generation can stand on yours. Lift subjects to a higher level and let teachers and future students say goodbye to their uninformed selves.’

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