Student evals revised after investigation

by Beacon Staff • November 15, 2006

Recently, these evaluations became a point of discussion when the administration launched an investigation into grade inflation.,At the end of each semester, every student at Emerson College is asked to evaluate the courses they have taken. The results then go to department heads and academic committees who use them to gauge the success of teaching methods.

Recently, these evaluations became a point of discussion when the administration launched an investigation into grade inflation. The investigation first came about when overall school grades indicated an unusually high number of "A" grades earned throughout the college.

Tracy Worrell, chair of academic policy, was the head of the sub-committee investigating grade inflation. Its findings did not indicate a grade inflation problem but did uncover some problems in the student evaluations.

According to Worrell, the inordinate amount of "A" grades was not coming entirely from grade inflation, but also from a lack of challenging courses.

"It's come out from certain student evaluations that classes aren't challenging enough and that's a problem," Worrell said. "It was that students were feeling that they didn't really have to do a lot of work to get an A."

Alex Porteshawver, a senior marketing communication major, said that while her classes can be challenging, they seem redundant.

"I'm not saying it's so easy that I don't have to try," Porteshawver said. "But I'd like some variety. How about a sports marketing or an entertainment marketing class?"

Students in the Visual and Media Arts (VMA) department had the most complaints.

Daniel Raybin, a junior TV/video major, said that he would like to learn more from his classes.

"TV/video at Emerson does not revolve around the classes, but around the extracurriculars," he said.

As a member of Emerson Independent Video (EIV), Raybin said that he feels he is learning more from working with the organization than from his professors.

"The people in EIV are at least five years ahead of entry-level classes," Raybin said. "EIV students run classes."

Raybin said he would like to see a way for students to test out of lower-level production classes, so they would have the opportunity to develop their skills more quickly than they would in the normal progression.

"If you're held back in classes, then you don't have the opportunity to express your talents," Raybin said.

Joe Collesano, a junior film major, also said he was dissatisfied with the VMA courses.

"As far as many of the classes for film and TV, they're not challenging enough," Collesano said. "The further you go, you get more frustrated. I feel what we learn is very repetitive and we don't grow."

Michael Selig, chair of the VMA department, offered some insight into the department in an e-mail to The Beacon.

"I have always been concerned with providing a challenging learning environment for the students," Selig said.

He also discussed how he judges student satisfaction with the department.

"One set of statistics that I use to gauge student satisfaction is retention figures," Selig said. "Freshman to sophomore retention in VMA is quite good, hovering around 90% in any given year for a number of years now. Graduation rates from freshman to graduation are also quite good."

Selig declined to comment further on the concerns expressed by Raybin and Collesano.

However, other department heads were willing to discuss the need for better student/faculty communication in order for classes to improve.

Daniel Kempler, chair of the communication sciences and disorders department, said he was unsure why students don't express their concerns to their professors.

"It seems on the evaluations at the end of the semester that they [the professors] are willing to listen," Kemplar said.

Some students have not found such a problem with their classes.

Brittany Hoxie, a sophomore writing, literature and publishing major, said she finds her classes challenging and well-organized.

"My classes are becoming progressively harder," Hoxie said, pointing specifically to her writing courses.

The real problem, he suggested, was that students were afraid the professors may not accept the constructive criticism.

"That's always an issue because [students] are worried about their grade reflecting a bad attitude," Kempler said. "But I think all our faculty is above that."

Janet Koldozy, chair of the journalism department also expressed confidence in the faculty's dedication.

"Every faculty member I have ever talked to takes student feedback very seriously if the student takes it seriously," she said.