CIPs Teaching Tips – Fall 2012 #10 “Beauty (or any other trait) is in the eye of the beholder…”

It’s time once again for student evaluations. As you know, students use an evaluation form (in our case, IDEA) to communicate their experience about the courses they are currently in and the professors they currently have. Are students good judges of the value of their courses or the abilities of their professors? We could debate that all day. What we do know is that student evaluations are a tool for collecting student impressions. Impressions are very powerful – first impressions, final impressions, any impressions. Research shows that the way a student views an instructor has a marked effect on their learning and on how they value the course being taught. *Please see article links at the end of this communication.

So what does this mean?? Does it matter whether or not students truly know what’s best for them? Should their impressions and judgments matter? How can we ultimately view and use student evaluation results in helpful ways? Student evaluation reports tell us how most of our students view our efforts. They also reveal how the minority of students view these same efforts. We can compare what students perceive they received to what we were attempting to deliver.

Perhaps we actually did deliver the learning experience we wanted to deliver, but students didn’t perceive it for what it was. This could be because we need to do a better job of helping students to become aware of what is actually happening in class; to label what is happening; to make connections between what is happening in class and the purpose of the course; and to understand the usefulness of that purpose in their careers and future lives.

Student evaluation reports are our opportunity to compare what students think happened in class with what we think happened. Value emerges as we tease out why students’ perceptions are what they are – good or bad; it’s our task to figure out what’s working, what’s not, and most importantly why this is so.

Make sure to choose objectives on the faculty information sheet that match what you are trying to accomplish in the class. Don’t confuse methods with objectives. You might have asked students to use writing, but if learning to write is not a primary goal in your course then don’t choose it as an objective.

When you get your evaluation report, remember what you’ll have in your hands are your students’ perceptions, their impressions of what happened in your classes. Use that information to tweak what you do, to figure out what to keep and what to alter. If you want help wading through your students impressions, make an appointment and I’ll help you to find the useful pieces hiding underneath all those numbers.

Hope to see you on the other side (grin),


Allen, Jerry L., et al. “Students’ Predispositions and Orientations toward Communication and Perceptions of Instructor Reciprocity and Learning.” Communication Education 57.1 (2008): 20-40. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2009.

Andersen, Janis and Peter Anderson. “Teacher Immediacy.” Blackwell Reference Online.

Goodboy, Alan K., and Scott A. Myers “The Relationship Between Perceived Instructor Immediacy and Student Challenge Behavior.” Journal of Instructional Psychology 36.2 (2009): 108-112. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2009.

Huddle, David. “Sublime Time in the Seminar: An Elegy.” UVM Connection Vermont Quarterly Summer 2009.

Hutchins, Holly M. “Instructional Immediacy and the Seven Principles: Strategies for Faciliating Online Courses.” Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume VI, Number 111 (2003).

Stewart, Kenneth “Lessons from Teaching Millennials.” College Teaching 57.2 (2009): 111-118. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2009.

*Put these letters in front of URLs for off-campus access:

Cinse Bonino, Director

Located on the second floor of the Miller Information Commons (the library) across from the printer – MIC 205

Contact Director Cinse Bonino for a one-on-one CIP instructional design session:

Email: or Phone: 802 651 5965 Skype: cinse.cip


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