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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: For everyone’s sake, fill out your TCEs

It’s that time of year again. No — not Coachella. This is Teacher-Course Evaluation season.

TCEs are anonymous surveys students can fill out to rate the effectiveness of their professors, courses and departments — as most UA students already know. They let us comment on what we liked and didn’t like about the classes we took, and how they can be improved in the future.

Many students, however, undervalue the importance of these evaluations. There are some smaller courses and labs that still hand out paper evaluations during class; however, this is becoming obsolete, as most of the surveys are now filled by students on their own time, online. While this is more convenient for teachers who do not have to take time out of their class schedules, and for administrators who do not have to print tens of thousands of evaluations, students are less likely to fill out the evaluations if they have to take the time to do it themselves.

As a result, many teachers offer bonus points if a certain percentage of the class has completed the evaluations, but then students simply fill in random answers to receive the extra credit. This is not helpful for anyone. TCEs are used to improve our courses and by giving useless answers, you could be hurting future classes. While “no exams” would be great, it is simply not going to happen, and answers like that prevent courses from improving from year to year.

As Dr. Fulvio Melia, a physics professor at the UA, wrote in an email interview, “Everyone should have full confidence in the purpose and consequences of the TCE evaluations. They may be far more important than many students recognize, because they have a meaningful, tangible impact on everyone involved in the process. The evaluations are taken very seriously by the faculty and their departments, producing changes to the syllabus (when necessary), altering the examination structure and generally improving how teachers conduct the class.”

TCEs are one of the best — and only — ways students can have a say in how the university structures its courses. While it may not affect the student directly, as they have already finished the course, the TCEs filled out by previous classes have affected the courses they are currently taking. In addition, the general departmental questions could promote positive change in all of the department’s courses.

Many students may not realize this, but we also have access to TCE results. Students can log into UAccess Analytics, select “TCE-Teacher Course Evaluation” from the dashboard’s drop-down menu, click on “TCE Student Report,” and search any class or professor to get a summary of their TCE results. Sites like RateMyProfessors.com are biased since students only go on to rate teachers they loved and despised. TCEs, however, have the potential to be very helpful, especially if students take the time to fill them out carefully.

These evaluations not only help future classes, but “also have a considerable impact on the other side of the ledger,” Melia wrote. “Professors’ promotion decisions are based in large part on how the students respond to their teaching. And the TCE evaluations are also used to select appropriate teachers for the courses.”

So next time you get the reminder email from the TCE Administration, take the few minutes to fill out your teachers’ evaluations. It may help your favorite professor get that promotion they have been waiting for. It may help future classes receive more effective assignments or more fair exams.

TCEs have definitely helped improve some of the courses you have taken and made your college experience that much better. What may seem like a simple survey to you could have far-reaching implications for many other people, so please take the five minutes to fill out your TCEs before May 4. Your teachers, and your fellow Wildcats will appreciate it. 


Follow Apoorva Bhaskara on Twitter.


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