There is something inherently unfortunate about end-of-the-semester evaluations: they are at the end of the semester. Students will soon be off to other corners of campus, taking different courses with different professors.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Students should be given an opportunity to evaluate their courses midway through the semester, and now is the perfect time for the College to adopt such a policy.
Blackboard, the recently-implemented online classroom system, allows administrators to post electronic surveys. It would be advantageous for the College?which has positioned academics as its top priority?to use this system for anonymous mid-semester evaluations.
While the numerical rating method used at the end of the semester might not be appropriate for such a system, an open-ended opportunity to provide written feedback about course content and teaching styles could be useful to students, faculty, and departments.
Students would certainly benefit from the ability to provide thoughtful comments about what is working and what is not working. And faculty?many of whom came to Bowdoin because teaching is their passion?would have the opportunity for self-improvement. Suggestions could range from speeding up or slowing down lectures to restructuring course content.
We realize that there will be students who will be harshly critical of any instructor, and we understand that some professors are exceedingly hesitant to change their ways. Yet this does not mean that this concept could not work for those who believe in a healthy dialogue between teacher and student.
The system would not be unprecedented?some Bowdoin faculty have informally offered such evaluations and several other colleges actively encourage their faculty to distribute these surveys.
Though the plan could be implemented by the College quickly, we expect that faculty and administrators would prefer to carefully deliberate and debate before taking action. Therefore, individual faculty members should consider distributing such surveys to their classes in the meantime. Such positive action would further the academic mission of the College and would help professors meet their responsibility to facilitate student learning.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board consists of the editors-in-chief and the managing editor.