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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Evaluations sway prof rankings

Student evaluations allow students to reverse roles and grade their teachers for once, but when the tables are turned, teachers’ jobs may be at risk.’

Political science professor Harrell Rodgers said evaluations weigh heavily on faculty ranking.’

‘We require every course to be evaluated, and we take them seriously,’ Rodgers said. ‘We take them into consideration when we do ranking of each faculty member every year.

‘We have a committee in the departments that evaluates all professors’ research, teaching and service. Teaching evaluations are the primary tools that we use to write ventures on teachers.”

He said evaluations are usually positive, but the occasional negative evaluation does exist.’

‘If a professor does get bad evaluations, we will sit down with them and talk to them,’ Rodgers said. ‘We will talk about what the problem is and what they need to do to correct those problems.’

Department of Curriculum and Instruction chair and associate professor Laveria Hutchison said she doesn’t see many negative evaluations, either. She said she has never known anyone in the College of Education to be fired because of their evaluations.

‘We don’t have many negative teaching evaluations that would result in having to spend a great deal of time trying to revamp a course, because we’re teachers first, and we’re in higher education,’ Hutchison said.

Teachers are continually striving to improve their courses and teaching methods, she said.

‘The evaluation process helps a faculty member in how they may want to make changes in a class based on students’ responses,’ Hutchison said. ‘All of our faculty members are constantly revising their course syllabus and their course content to meet current research and needs of students.’

Adjunct history instructor Kelly Hopkins said evaluations can also determine teachers’ class sizes. In large survey classes, better-evaluated teachers generally conduct the higher capacity classes.’

‘I believe that adjunct instructors receive positive evaluations in the large surveys, in the sections with the highest student volume,’ Hopkins said. ‘In the History Department, the surveys are usually capped at 150, 300 and 450 students. If your evaluations are strong, you may be moved into the 300 or 450 student sections.’ Departmental needs for instructors, however, carry the greatest weight.’ ‘

Hopkins said many factors influence students’ evaluations, some of which may not be reliable.

‘Students can be especially stressed near the end of the semester and answer questions based on short-term memory rather than think about the entire semester,’ Hopkins said.’

‘But if the vast majority of students are saying the same things, it’s difficult to ignore the consensus.’ As instructors, we need to take the student evaluations seriously and make classroom adjustments, without compromising course content and goals.’

Stuart Dryer, Biology and Biochemistry Department chair, said evaluations often depend on the course levels and class sizes.

‘Professors who teach at the lower level courses usually get lower evaluation grades than those teaching 4000-level courses. That may be because students have become more mature, and the ones that haven’t are no longer with the University,’ Dryer said. ‘Professors in 4000-level courses usually have smaller classes, so they can get to know their students, which helps when it comes to evaluations. It’s usually the younger professors who have the problems. The ones that have been here for a long time usually have the process down.’

Student comments can be valuable in pinpointing problems teachers might be unaware are occurring, he said.’

‘Comments written on the back can sometimes be the most helpful stuff. We really do care what you think, and we take this stuff very seriously,’ Dryer said. ‘I was doing little things that I didn’t even know I was doing, like turning around when answering a question, which made it hard for students to hear. Somebody pointed it out, and it helped me get better.’

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