CUE Discusses Tying Grade Reports to Course Evaluations

Members of the Committee on Undergraduate Education met yesterday to discuss the possibility of allowing students to access grades earlier if they submit course evaluations, and the ways to improve communication between students and their academic instructors.

Logan S. McCarty ’96, an assistant dean of the College, presented a proposed calendar for course evaluations that would allow the online evaluations to stay open after the end of exam period and let students see their grades early once they submit their evaluations.

The earliest students could see their grades would be the day after finals period, said McCarty, but “none of this is set in stone.”

The committee then discussed ways to improve midterm grade reports, a little known practice in which faculty are expected, but not required, to report on their students’ progress midway through the semester. This allows resident deans, who often know the bigger picture about a student, to discuss problems with students early on.

Since final grading has now moved entirely online, it makes sense for midterm grading to also move online, said Paige Duncan, an information technology staffer.

Currently, the faculty participation varies, with some faculty filling out the report for all students, some filling it out only for those who have an unsatisfactory grade (below C-), and some not filling it out at all, Duncan said.

Committee members agreed that midterm grade reports should be available for all courses undergraduates take.

“All courses will be part of the midterm grade process, and all grades will be expected from faculty whether they are unsatisfactory or not, and all grades will be somehow reported to the resident deans whether they are satisfactory or not,” said Registrar Barry S. Kane.

Another important part of a course is midterm course evaluations, when the students evaluate the class overall, said James Wilkinson, director of the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.

“Midterm course evaluations give courses a chance to change before the end of the semester,” he said.

Wilkinson suggested that teaching fellows and course heads work with somebody outside the course to interpret the feedback.

Outgoing interim Dean of the College David R. Pilbeam suggested changing the name to “midterm feedback” to make it seem less punitive.

The committee then discussed how to improve section teaching, which Pilbeam said was one of his highest priorities.

Jay M. Harris, a professor of Jewish studies and chair of the General Education implementation committee, said that one way to solve the problem of hiring mediocre teaching fellows because of unexpected class sizes would be implementing pre-registration, which would require students to submit which classes they are mostly likely going to enroll in several months ahead of time.

“I definitely agree,” Undergraduate Council President Matthew L. Sundquist ’09 said.

Harris and Assistant Dean Stephanie H. Kenen then provided an update on Gen Ed. Kenen said that five new classes were added this week, and that Gen Ed science classes might try to offer some kind of laboratory experience in order to give non-science concentrators “a taste of what discovery feel like.”