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Professor Evaluations Now Shorter and Online

From the Record, by Joey Fox, “Student Course Survey undergoes changes.”

Following a years-long process that went through four separate faculty committees and multiple all-faculty votes, changes to the Student Course Survey (SCS) which were first approved in 2017 will be implemented at the end of this semester.

Interesting opening line! Sounds like Joey spent a lot of time interviewing people who think this was an overly protracted process, for all that ultimately ended up changing.

What’s changing: Professor evaluations used to be two sheets, the “White Sheet” and the “Blue Sheet.” The White Sheet was a scantron-esque form that was 23 questions long, and also had you fill out information like your year, whether the course was a major requirement/pure elective/etc, and the grade you expected you’d get in the class. The Blue Sheet was for comments directly to our professor, to be received after they’d submitted grades, and you could put your name on it if you wanted to. In the last or second-to-last class session, the professor would end class 25-ish minutes early, ask for a volunteer to bring the envelopes down to the drop-off boxes in Paresky, and would leave the room for students to fill out the sheets. Depending on the class, students would either fill them out in silence, or talk with each other about what they were writing.

According to Provost Dukes Love, the vote on the second motion revealed significant disagreements among faculty over the changes.

“It was a relatively close vote,” Love said. “I wouldn’t say that this is one of the most controversial issues on campus. But really smart faculty have different views about the most effective ways of evaluating teaching performance, effective teaching.” Love clarified that some faculty wanted only one of the two main changes – reducing questions and moving online – while others wanted no changes whatsoever.

Wade agreed, adding that still others wanted even more drastic changes. “Some faculty feel that we should get rid of student evaluations altogether — that they’re biased, and that they’re measuring student satisfaction more than teaching quality,” she said. “Others feel that while flawed, student course evaluations are the one opportunity for all students to weigh in on their experiences in the classroom, and that involving fewer people in the evaluation process might lead to even more bias.”

I don’t have much of a perspective on the best way to evaluate professors, though I do think that students should have at least some way of voicing their opinions on classes–getting rid of student evaluations altogether would be absurd.

In my experience, students tended to take the evaluation forms pretty seriously. Evaluations happened at the end of the semester, when people tended to be fairly stressed with final projects being due and final exams about to start. Some had feedback that they’d been saving all semester to put on the blue sheets, and spent the entirety of the period filling out that blue sheet; others didn’t fill it out at all. Most professors would claim that they didn’t care that much about the White Sheets, and just wanted our feedback on the Blue Sheet, sometimes asking specific questions of us to put in the Blue Sheets like what we thought of the curriculum, what we thought of their method for teaching something, etc. If we knew that a professor was new and in consideration for tenure, and if they were reasonably well-liked, I think many students would overlook flaws that could otherwise be spaces for feedback, and give high marks on the White Sheets.

Experience and thoughts on end-of-course evaluations?