Students in favor of public teacher evaluations
Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 7, 2012 20:10
Getting ready to fill in your course cart? Whether you are already planning your classes for next quarter, or waiting until last minute, there is chatter among students about professor suggestions and who to avoid.
For most students, Rate My Professor is the primary source for gathering information about professors online, but the DePaul Student Government Association (SGA) has been working to create another option for students, making teacher evaluations public information, allowing them to gain perspective on the teacher effectiveness and course difficulty.
After concerns and speculation from DePaul University’s administration about a previous proposal, the SGA hit the drawing board and is on the verge of submitting a new, more comprehensive document that outlines the strategy behind their initiative to make teacher evaluations public to students in different colleges. The question now is not whether or not this can be possible, but whether students are actually interested in this initiative.
The SGA released an online survey Sept. 5, through the Academic Affairs, urging DePaul students to voice their opinions on whether or not they would like to see teacher evaluations go public.
According to the SGA survey, which ended Sept. 21, 87 percent out of 161 respondents said they would like the opportunity to view the course evaluations of fellow students when selecting classes each quarter, and 82 percent of 162 students said they would be more likely to complete the evaluations if they were made public. Students cited teacher effectiveness and the difficulty of the course as the key information they would like to gain from the evaluations.
Robert Riley, an undergraduate screenwriting student, said he was satisfied with the current process of teacher evaluations, but he'd be in favor of making the evaluations public. “Making them available to students would create more objectivity,” he said.
SGA President Caroline Winsett said that the organization was not aware of the complexities of their initiatives regarding the differences from college to college; including special considerations for hybrid and online courses. After meeting with DePaul University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider and Interim Provost Patricia O’Donoghue, Winsett believes the new document provides more details on the metrics and process of implementing the initiative.
DePaul University has already implemented the public course evaluations for the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM), as well as its College of Law.
Dr. David Miller, Dean of the College of Computing and Digital Media, said that faculty was unanimously in favor of making teacher evaluations available to the public. These schools can be viewed as a trial run, and can test whether or not students are actually interested in reading the evaluations.
“If the data comes back and it doesn’t improve the retention of student evaluations of their faculty, then there’s no need to pursue it further,” said Winsett.
Student participation has been low in the teacher evaluation process. While some professors offer extra credit for students who complete the evaluations, both Dr. David Miller and Dr. GianMario Besana, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, proposed an alternative solution that allows students to access their grades earlier by completing the evaluations.
Besana also said the evaluation platform should be available on mobile devices in the future, which could potentially increase participation through easier access.
Runna Othman, a senior undergraduate student, said that she fills out the evaluations forms and thinks making them public would be beneficial. “I think it would be useful for other students to see what past students have thought about the professor,” she said.
Graduate student Amy Merell, also in favor of public evaluations, said they would “keep professors more accountable.”
Despite the positive results of the survey in favor of public evaluations, some students remain skeptical. David Shastry, a CDM student, said he still prefers the alternative Rate My Professor website instead of the public course evaluations.
“Similar services such as Ratemyprofessor.com are a little better, since it is not mandatory for students to fill them out and they have to be motivated and feel strongly about a professor to rate them,” said Shastry. “The CDM Course Evaluation system is a flawed and pointless resource – students do not take the evaluations seriously – and it is one that my friends and I rarely use as CDM students.”
Despite speculation, Winsett said that the data collected from teacher evaluations would be more legitimate data because it has more specific aspects of the classroom that is assessed in the teacher evaluation forms rather than on the online website Rate My Professor. However, the SGA recognizes that this data will not be as legitimate without responses from students.
“Course evaluations are used in the faculty tenure and promotion process, and if students aren’t taking them or ignoring that email that’s repeatedly sent out, then that data isn’t as robust as it should be when we’re deciding which faculty should remain at DePaul,” said Winsett.
“We’re hoping that this initiative will work to improve that retention and give students access to information that they need to be more informed when selecting their courses.”