“Your voice matters! Completing Student Feedback Forms (e-SFF) is the primary means for you – the student – to provide confidential feedback on the quality of instruction and delivery of courses.”
“Your voice counts and has a measurable impact on the ongoing effort to continuously improve both the market value and the enhanced lifetime impact of the education you and your colleagues receive here. The forms are easy to use and only take a few minutes to complete.”
“This is your last chance to give feedback. Remember, all feedback remains confidential.”
I’ve received a total of 15 emails regarding what my school calls Student Feedback Forms over the past two weeks. My professors have cajoled, bribed, and begged us to complete them. The degree of desperateness varies depending upon the person’s tenure position. I’ve been offered donuts, soft pretzels, or a grade boost in order to simply fill out the form (presumably with positive feedback … you scratch my back, I give you sugary foods and all that) so that the university can achieve a high completion rate.
Those that are more confident in their teaching abilities have insisted upon absolute candor, whereas those that fear for their positions dance around (or on) the suggestion of writing a kind review. However, the common theme amongst all my professors is simply: my job is riding on a few words you write on an online form.
Imagine me … a person of twenty years, a student of even fewer, determining the existence and livelihood of a handful of adults that have tried their darnedest to give me some learning the past fifteen weeks. I, having no pedagogical training, am not simply giving my professor critiques on his or her teaching ability, but determining whether he or she is fit to be teaching me, God’s gift to academia.
I suppose I’m flattered. My university is assuming a much higher level of intelligence and integrity of my peers and me than I’m used to: according to my professors, in this forum, my voice is given more weight than anything else. Not only is this inequality problematic, but so is the format of the forum. I have complete anonymity and detachment. I type a few words to my screen either in ardor or anger and never have to claim them.
Children scream what they don’t want, whereas adults demand what they want. So I’ll be an adult … I’ve got two fixes:
One-fairly simple-is instead of SFFs, the university conducts brief exit interviews for courses after final grades are submitted. Students sit down with the professor and an administrator to answer a few questions regarding whether the student achieved his/her goals in taking the course and whether the student communicated clearly in order to help the professor understand how to assist in his/her learning. Thus, the anonymity and detachment are taken away. A student has to formulate thoughts in an immediate way and be able to critically examine whether he/she was successful in the course and if not, whether the student or professor was at fault. This opens a more dynamic dialogue between professor, student, and administrators.
Second-a bit more involved-we implement more accountability in students and correct the balance of power between teacher and student. There exists a frankly incorrect opinion amongst students that teachers are responsible for whether students pass or fail a course. I believe this stems from moving from high school (specifically, public) to college where there exists an immense status-shift for students that we are completely unaware of.
When we enter a college or university that we are paying tuition for, students become consumers. We become investors in an ever-increasing business venture. Yet we have never been taught the privileges and responsibilities that come with it.
We are breaking the piggy bank, hocking the broken shards, and selling the next twenty years of our life in a down payment on which we’ve never been taught to collect. Students must educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities.
- It is a student’s right to determine whether he or she wishes to pursue a higher education.
- A student must determine whether the use value of a degree exceeds the market value. If so, he or she may seek a higher education degree
- It is a student’s right to dictate the method by which he or she wishes to learn.
- A student must determine what institution and thus, which method of learning he or she wishes to invest in.
- Example: A student is able to choose a public or private school, a trimester or semester schedule, a large or small school with individual or group learning, etc.
- A student must continually determine whether the chosen method of learning is contributing to the student’s acquisition of a degree and its corresponding set of skills.
- It is a student’s responsibility to outline learning goals for his or her degree.
- A student must determine what skills he or she wishes to obtain from the degree.
- It is a student’s responsibility to outline learning goals for the classes within a degree.
- A student must determine what skills he or she wishes to obtain from the class.
- It is a student’s responsibility to communicate clearly with the professor how to best help the student achieve his or her learning goals.
- A student is responsible for achieving success in a class.
- If, despite extensive communication, the professor is not able to provide success for the student, it is the student’s right to remedy the situation.
- A student is responsible for achieving success in a class.
It is a student’s right and responsibility (not a professor’s) to graduate him- or herself.
These are the rights and responsibilities of a student (who is more of a consumer and investor than anything else these days), which we rarely speak of. Transitioning from high school to college, it seems to us that teachers still possess this inherent, unbreakable power over our success in academia because they give numerical values that determine whether we move forward in our degree, but this is an illusion.
The moment you break that piggy bank in order to pursue a degree for personal or financial reasons, you have a power that no one wants to acknowledge.
Examine it, understand it, and utilize it.