Mercury Testimonials

Teaching and Learning Services interviewed instructors, Chairs, and Directors about their perspectives on student feedback from course evaluations. Excerpts from their interviews are provided below.

Photo of Elisabeth Gidengil

Photo: Owen Egan

“I’m old enough to remember when students had to fight for the right to have course evaluations. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was a real struggle. Things were very hierarchical in those days. The thought that you could possibly make critical comments in any official way about the instructor or the course was inconceivable. Students won that right, and like any right, if it is not exercised it risks falling by the wayside.”

Elisabeth Gidengil
Department of Political Science

“The sharpest example of the usefulness of the evaluations is when I taught Islamic Civilizations, a 200-level survey course. Since I was not accustomed to teaching a class with such a large number of students, I didn’t quite know how to lecture straight rather than have back and forth discussions. I knew as I was going along that I wasn’t doing a very good job of it, but the evaluations gave me a much more specific formulation of the problems that students were having. For example, many found that the level of the readings was far too advanced, so the next time I taught that course, I made sure they had undergraduate-level readings. So that really, really helped and sure enough, the evaluations the next time around were far superior on that note.”

Prashant Keshavmurthy
Institute of Islamic Studies


Photo of Preshant Keshavmurthy

Photo of Shane Sweet

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

“I read every single comment from the students. I try to pick out or get a sense of what they’re trying to say. Then I think, how does that relate back to the course and how can I improve certain elements of the course? If those are things that students are liking, I am going to make sure that I continue doing this activity. I just try to look at what the constructive feedback is.”  

"In our department, there are people who are in physical education, some are in kinesiology, some want to be doctors, some want to be physical therapists, some want to be educators... so from the course evaluations I realized my examples have to be quite a bit broader than what they were in the past. Now when I try to explain content using real world data or different examples, I try to look at the scope from children to adults across a variety of settings."

Shane Sweet
Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education


“As Chair, I am hiring people, and student feedback definitely affects who I hire, who is doing well, and who has special problems. I will sit down with professors sometimes in order to discuss any problems that arose with students in their course evaluations to talk about ways that they can improve.”

John Galaty
Chair, Department of Anthropology


Photo of John Galaty

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

Photo of Sylvie Lambert

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

“Based on student feedback, I revamped my entire course. This year, everything from how the course was structured, how I ran every lecture, the evaluations... completely changed. I got very good suggestions from the students like ‘instead of this, try this’ – and that’s exactly what I did. I tried different things and it went really well.”

“I want a high response rate because I want a representative level of feedback. You always have certain people who don’t like certain things, so I’m encouraging participation as much as possible so I can hear the voices of all of the students. Not only those who hated or loved the course, but as many people as possible so that if I make a change, it’s representative of the comments. For me, the main incentive is really just getting high quality feedback.”

Sylvie Lambert
Ingram School of Nursing


“I would say that students never know how they might touch a professor. Sometimes students might think that their feedback does not matter, that they don’t have to write anything because it’s not even read or taken into consideration. But I would argue that often times they’re wrong, because what students say can really touch a professor. The professor might think, ‘wow this is a good comment,’ or ‘this is something I’ve been thinking about, and it’s true even if it’s hard to admit.’”

Francoise Filion
Ingram School of Nursing

Photo of Francoise Filion

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

Photo of Marjorie Rabiau

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

“Course evaluations are very important to me and extremely useful, especially because of the comments and qualitative part. I really use the feedback to adapt my courses for the next year. I sit down, get the gist of the comments, and use it to re-design the course or tweak the course if needed. It usually helps me work on the alignment of my assignments and my objectives and see if there are any problems.”

Marjorie Aude Rabiau
School of Social Work


“Student feedback really influences how professors teach. And I think it becomes even more important today, because so much knowledge is available online and we need to really add value in the classroom. The way we do that is by listening to what students have to say about the course.”

Oliver Coomes
Department of Geography


Photo of Oliver Coomes

Photo: Nadine Hennelly

Photo of Chris Ragan

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

“As a professor you try to get students to understand that you actually do take their feedback seriously and you actually do read their comments, good or bad. These comments are useful because they’re the only direct feedback around. What other feedback do I have? This is the place where you can be negative and constructive and I will read that. And maybe students don’t believe that I read them or care, but they’re wrong on that.”

Christopher Ragan
Department of Economics


“Course evaluations really matter to me. They really matter especially when they tell me about something that didn’t work well and if I changed it, it could work better next year. Of course I really want to hear about that, because I want to make the course better – it’s really just as simple as that.”

Ian Gold
Department of Philosophy


Photo of Ian Gold

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

Photo of Tabitha Sparks

Photo: Stephanie Fehertoi

“I think most professors think very deeply about how we frame information. I’ve never taught the same class twice; I always change things. Having feedback from the students about what is working and what is not working is the most valuable information that I can have when I am re-writing a course.”

“Course evaluations have alerted me to things I never would know due to other means. The kind of information that has been really helpful is if a majority of the students will say something is too hard. That is very, very important because that is usually not the kind of thing they want to mention in class. They’d usually prefer to mention that anonymously, which I completely respect.”

Tabitha Sparks
Department of English

“First and foremost, course evaluations are the only or main way I can determine whether a course needs to be changed. Without it, I’m going in blind.”

“Course evaluations are the major way I have of flagging either courses that are problematic or conferring that a course is going fairly well. So evaluations are a way of identifying courses that may need some kind of change and they provide fairly rich information about what needs to change.”

Nico Trocmé
School of Social Work

Photo of Nico Trocmé

Photo of Corinne Hoesli

"I read every single comment, and I read them more than once. Usually, I look at my course evaluations immediately when they are released, and then again before teaching the course the next year. The course evaluations - particularly the comments - provide invaluable suggestions for improvements.

I was hired at McGill in 2014 and taught my first course that year. In 2015, I completely revamped the course taking into account student feedback. This led to a drastic improvement in the delivery of the material and in student satisfaction the following year.

It is crucial to me to obtain a representative sampling of the students in each course. The average response rates are only 30%. If you are a student reading this, please participate in the evaluations. Response rates above 90% are on my Christmas wishlist each year."

Corinne Hoesli
Department of Chemical Engineering

"Evaluating what we do and how we do it is always helpful whether it is a self-evaluation or an evaluation by others. Knowing that we are evaluated pushes us to give the best of us and to keep improving our work.

I read all the evaluations several times. Student feedback helps me improving my course for next years and adapting it to the new generation of students."

Rima Slim
Department of Human Genetics

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