Reevaluating teacher evaluations

About this time every semester, faculty members leave their classrooms for a few minutes to allow students to answer questions about their performance and experiences with the course. While the process of evaluating faculty is widespread and encouraged by academic divisions and departments, the instructions and background information about the process provided to students is horribly inconsistent.

Sometimes the department secretary will distribute evaluation sheets. Sometimes a faculty member will merely send out a link to an Internet survey. What’s more, the actual evaluation sheets — questions and criteria — are different in nearly every department. For something as important as evaluations, the college should seek to simplify the process by creating a universal evaluation sheet that can be used for all departments. Along with the new universal evaluation sheets, instructions should provide specific and consistent information to students.

Of course, not all departments are created equal. Science departments need questions referring to labs, while those in the humanities omit that. But by having different evaluation sheets for every department (with unique wording about class satisfaction, et cetera) it does not seem as effective as having one, universal evaluation sheet used campus-wide. And since different departments are evaluating different criteria, like labs or one-on-one meetings, creating supplemental evaluation sheets will eliminate the potential conflicts with the universal sheet. The supplemental sheet would easily cover any additional material departments would like to evaluate.

I am no academic affairs expert. But as a student and evaluator of faculty, I see the incredible disadvantage with Concordia’s inconsistent evaluation process. The evaluations should be geared to helping not just the faculty member but also the wider Concordia community.

If departments published evaluations (anonymously, of course), students would be able to have a greater role in the process. With the rising popularity of websites, such as Rate My Professor, students are clearly interested in reading evaluations of faculty before taking a certain course. But a major problem with websites that allow anonymous comments about faculty is the fact that people generally are representative of one extreme: strongly recommending or not recommending a faculty member. If a student had a terrible experience in a class, they are more likely to post a comment to the site, just as one that had a wonderful experience would. This is an ineffective tool. If all students participated in a consistent, clearly worded on campus evaluation, they would be effectively contributing to the very important process of evaluating faculty.

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