A higher education reform proposed by Gov. Rick Perry would award bonuses to professors based on student evaluations – you know, the reason you get to leave class 10 minutes early at the end of each semester.
Judging by the number of students who file out of the room when their professor steps out and Scantron sheets are passed around, this doesn’t seem like the best plan.
The idea of rewarding professors for what students think of them is, in theory, a great one. Who would know better than students how well a professor teaches? However, in reality the implementation of this reform would create a great deal of trouble.
Bonus pay would be awarded to professors who receive the highest marks on evaluations, but students are generally more pleased with a professor who teaches little, grades easy and tests rarely. The professors who pack what little teaching time they have full of lecture and learning seem to be students’ least favorite.
With bonus pay on the line, teaching will become a popularity contest. Professors will strive to win the affection of students in order to receive a payoff.
Despite that concern, it’s not really professors’ actions or future actions that are the problem. The fact that students don’t take evaluations seriously and the lazy attitude many have toward their education is the underlying issue dooming this well-intentioned proposal.
Students should look at evaluations with a sense of responsibility. They are an opportunity to take a critical look at one’s education and suggest ways to improve it. They are also a chance to give recognition to professors who are making an impact and those who are doing so in a unique or interesting way.
Some students do put thought into the little bubbles they mark and there’s a chance, albeit a slim one, that we’re not giving enough credit to either party, but the risks of Perry’s proposal are too great for it to be put in place.
While a noble idea, the harsh reality is that students play favorites and when you add money to the equation professors are likely to buy in. We’d like to believe the majority would teach to the best of their ability, money be damned, but if even one lowers his or her standards it would be too many.
Until it can be assured that every student who picks up a pencil and rates his or her professor is doing so honestly and accurately, the reform should not be adopted.