Course Evaluations and Their Uses- Initial Thoughts

It surprises me that we haven’t yet made a post about course evaluations. Perhaps because this blog focuses more on preparing to teach and then actually teaching a course, we have paid relatively little attention to date to what happens at the end of a course besides handing out grades.

It is important, however, to pay attention to course evaluations, because they play such a significant role in tools that teachers can use to self-evaluate, but also because administrations use them to evaluate teaching effectiveness. This latter point is incredibly important for those who are in a tenure-track position, but also important for all others whose performance will be measured in part through course evaluations.

For starters, please read the article “How to Use Student Evaluations Wisely” by Professor David D. Perlmutter,, Dean of the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University.

In it, he discusses how such evaluations can be and are used both by administrators as well as by faculty. In future posts, I will discuss my take on course evaluations and address some of the points Professor Perlmutter makes.


More thoughts about keeping records of student work

More thoughts about keeping records of student work:

  • Check on your school’s policy on copying student work. My school has a policy that when students sign up for class, they agree to their work being used for educational purposes. Yours may not! I have worked at schools that required each student to fill out a permission form.
  • When I teach digital photo courses, I make documentation a part of assignments. For instance, I might have students turn in a Lightroom catalog for me so that I can see what they have done, but I will also request they turn in a folder of resized jpgs – small enough and properly formatted for web distribution. This serves several purposes: I develop am ample trove of student work examples that I use in future classes, for course assessment purposes or end of year faculty review, but it also is invaluable for students to learn how to present their work for exhibition applications, juried shows, grad school apps, job apps…. Which almost invariably request work samples in digital form.
  • I remind students that “I am the client” when they submit work – it needs to be presented in a professional manner and I teach best practices.
  • Be consistent with how you collect work and anticipate the future (ex. 640 px long image was standard 5 years ago, 1000 px is standard now and 1500 px will be standard soon…)
  • Make documentation of work a regular class assignment, especially if you work outside of the photographic fields. If you do not offer a portfolio, business of art, or exhibition course where this type of workshop would naturally form part of the coursework, teaching students how to properly document their work should form a part of your curriculum, if only as a workshop for all discipline students.
  • Team up with photo students to present workshops on documenting work, although you would be surprised at how many photo students don’t know how to do this well!