Online instructors receive poor evaluations for any number of reasons, including lack of experience, inadequate training, and poor communication skills. Other times, the poor reviews are more reflective of the course design than the instructor who’s teaching the course. That distinction is unimportant to the students.
I happened on the idea of giving voucher points accidentally, but over the years they’ve proven quite valuable in promoting active student involvement. It started when I was still teaching math in high school, and a student came up with a particularly clever method of solving a mathematics problem. As a reward, I wrote him an IOU good for one point on any of my tests. A few months later it happened again, and then later on I gave out a third voucher point. That semester, I received very positive comments about the practice on my student evaluations. Students requested that I “do voucher points more often.”
At most places now, students are given the opportunity to evaluate instructors at the end of each class. Along with standardized items, students are invited to offer open-ended narrative comments on the course and instructor. Sometimes the comments are nice; sometimes negative but constructive; sometimes negative and destructive.
When reflecting on my experiences as a college professor, several themes from The Wizard of Oz often surface. This well-known story provides a metaphorical view of behaviors that I strive to achieve in my ongoing work with students. In the familiar foursome’s journey to the Emerald City, I see characteristics necessary for teaching excellence—the need to improve, fine-tune and revamp as we travel with students through courses and curricula.