At the end of every semester, the University of Southern California has students complete course evaluations. These include reviews of our professors and teaching assistants (TAs). Typically, professors don’t take these seriously at all. They’re passed out in the middle of one of the lectures towards the end of the semester, and then the professor leaves for 15 minutes while we complete them. One student is designated to complete them and turn them in to the department. In other words, we don’t get much time to complete them, and students who don’t come to class don’t get to do them at all. Sometimes classes have fewer than 50% evaluate the professor and course.
I learned from Professor Zuckerman (Core 101) that they actually take course evaluations very seriously. According to him, every single one of them is read… and the scores have a direct effect on salary and promotions. This is a very good thing because students definitely have a better idea than anyone else of what the class is actually like. He advocates taking your course evalations home and turning them in later… this is something a vast majority of students aren’t aware they can do. In fact, Zuckerman requires it: he takes our evaluations upon submission of our final exam– and the evaluation is mandatory, good or bad. It’s anonymous and not grade-impacting, so it’s important for us to really tell the professors and the school what we think.
Zuckerman also suggests posting our evaluations on USC’s Senate Course Guide, where reviews of professors are posted publicly for all students to peruse. This is definitely a good idea… and I just did it for my math professor, Petros Ioannou (Math 225). (I won’t post my review here for anonymity reasons… I wouldn’t want my identity to impact the review.) I do want to say, however, that the TA for the course– Changlong Zhong– is the best I’ve had at USC so far.
One thing I’m not sure about: Zuckerman mentioned typing up our reviews to facilitate easy transfer to SCG. How can/should we do this when the course evals are written on paper– not submitted electronically? (Nobody has a typewriter these days.) Would they accept separately-attached pages? That seems clunky.
Zuckerman also advocates writing letters of complaint to school officials and administrators should there be anything we’re not satisfied with. Many of my friends are dissatisfied and/or angry about things the school does… but they don’t take action as they should. Make it a public letter– post it on your own blog, or here on my blog as a comment– and your effort is guaranteed to not be wasted.
Also, I don’t know where evals should be turned in, if taken home and completed later. The department? Or a central location in the Student Union perhaps?
In any case, if you’re a USC student: do all of your course evals, and do them thoughtfully. And also review all of your professors on Senate Course Guide… you’ll be helping students like yourself.
P.S. Unrelated “rough draft” post about popcorn stuck in my teeth.