As the end of the fall semester approaches, course and teaching evaluations are currently being administered on campus.
With intentions of improving faculty and student affairs, some undergraduates said they have found the objective of the evaluations to be an insignificant factor in assessing teaching credentials.
The main goal of the evaluations is to assist in the process of enriching the university’s curricular and advising programs so that students can succeed in their collegiate studies, said Dr. Bonnie Brennen, vice provost of Faculty Affairs. Brennen is responsible for coordinating the tenure and promotion process of faculty members and said she finds evaluations to provide valuable feedback.
“They’re a good tool in engaging how a class was handled,” Brennen said.
“For me it goes beyond the numbers; if one student makes a comment that a faculty member’s presentation style is excellent, that’s OK, but if 20 students speak about a faculty member’s presentation style that’s fantastic, and certainly that professor knows that it works,” Brennen said.
All faculty member evaluations are read by the department chair, Brennen said, as well as the evaluated faculty members.
Evaluations are also available to deans of all schools.
Ratings on evaluations are also used in determining tenure and promotion and schools use them in merit decisions.
“When faculty members get really strong student evaluations, it often results in merit,” Brennen said.
As a former tenured professor in the School of Communications and Theater, Brennen said she feels students should carefully evaluate their professors to ensure that the course is being taught properly.
“I think that care should be taken with the evaluations. I encourage students to really try and make constructive comments and use them not just to rant and rave, but to really give the professor good feedback of what they like and what they didn’t,” Brennen said.
Lienette Bounthinh, a sophomore psychology major, said she finds the evaluation process to be trivial.
“I think they are a waste of time and I feel they aren’t taken seriously because they’re given at the end of class, causing many students to scribble anything down,” Bounthinh said.
“The administration should consider using the first 10 minutes of class to perform evaluations because students won’t feel the need to rush.”
Although students are allotted at least 10 minutes to complete their evaluations, Bounthinh said she believes that in-depth discussions about the objectives of a course or the teaching quality of professors would be effective in producing better evaluations.
Professors within the College of Liberal Arts can also request mid-semester evaluations. Mid-semester evaluations are conducted by the Awareness of Teaching and Teaching Improvement Center. ATTIC performs in-class evaluations in which students can voice their opinions about how professors can improve their teaching.
“A better way to evaluate teachers is allowing students to voice their opinions,” Bounthinh said. “I find the ATTIC evaluations to be more effective in addressing our concerns as students.”
After the ATTIC evaluations are administered, a private report is compiled and given to the evaluated professor before the end of the semester.
These are only available by the requests of professors.
Elizabeth Agboola, a sophomore sports management
major, said she thinks that evaluations are irrelevant.
“The only time evaluations are taken seriously is when a professor’s teaching methods are not working properly or when a teacher is well-liked among their students,” Agboola said.
“If a teacher is neutral, it’s like some don’t really care to put down the strengths that they could improve on to make the class more interesting.”
Adjunct professor Jennifer Graham disagreed and said she finds the evaluations to have a profound impact on how a course is taught and the improvements that can be made as a result of them.
“I do read mine. I just wish that I got them faster. The things that people actually write is what I pay attention to,” said Graham.
While completing her graduate studies at Temple, Graham was offered the opportunity to teach journalism core courses. After teaching her first electronic information gathering course, Graham said she has found the student’s comments on evaluations are effective in evaluating how the course was structured.
When she first began teaching electronic information gathering, an introductory course about the Internet and electronic databases, Graham recalls that she taught the class in a room where students did not have their own computers. After students voiced their concerns about the necessity of individual computers, the course has been taught in computer labs.
Graham said that she actually enjoys reading her evaluations.
“It’s good to know your students more and see what’s working for them, what interests them and what doesn’t,” she said.
Dr. Peter Jones, vice provost of Undergraduate Affairs, said that student involvement is a valuable resource in improving undergraduate learning and teaching.
As Temple’s student body population continues to increase, the university has begun promoting programs that allow both undergraduate and graduate
students to be more influential in how classes are taught.
Currently, the Office of Undergraduate Affairs is in the process of implementing a 15-member committee that will publicize information from professor evaluations to students.
“One of the things we’re doing right now is forming a CATE committee,” Jones said.
“Their task is to look at the current evaluation form and come up with ideas of how to change the form and what we can do to better use the information we get, not just for the faculty, but to get information out to students.”
Jones also would like to create an electronic list that compiles students’ assessments from evaluations that identifies the most recommended faculty members.
He said he hopes the list will help students to get a sense of how their professor is rated prior to enrolling in the course.
“I’m aware of other sources of information like ratemyprofessor.com and other stuff that’s on the Web,” Jones said.
“There are obviously some real problems with that sort of thing, but … students are going to use it anyway. So if we don’t provide more valid and more reliable information as an alternative, then obviously that’s what students will look to.”
Brittany Diggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.