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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Online sites help students choose classes

    With registration season continuing, students have a myriad of options in choosing the right course.

    While there are many tools at students’ disposal for choosing classes during registration, including advisers, SAPRs, friends’ recommendations and the old reliable eeney-meeney-miney-mo, there is another: The UA’s Teacher-Course Evaluations Web site.

    The site, compiled from evaluations of past students, rates how well an instructor did his or her job, how much time course homework takes and how difficult students thought the course was.

    The evaluations were first put online in January 1998, following years of lobbying of the Faculty Senate by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona to make them more accessible to students.

    Gwendolyn Johnson, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation, said the evaluations Web site gets a lot of traffic, though the office does not keep exact numbers on how many people visit it.

    While some students use it to get an idea of what to expect from an instructor, others actually use it as a tool for selecting courses.

    Suzie Penaranda, a pre-nursing student at Pima Community College, said she used the teacher evaluation Web site when she was a student at the UA.

    “”I’ve had bad teachers, and (the evaluations) have helped,”” she said.

    Penaranda said she has avoided some classes because of bad teacher evaluations.

    However, Johnson said that the UA does not want students to rely on teacher evaluations as the only tool with which to choose classes, and instead students should focus on content.

    Douglas Weiner, a history professor, said the evaluations often offer helpful insights, even for professors.

    It is very useful when students offer feedback on textbooks and teaching approaches, he added.

    “”You can’t always view yourself as you are coming off in the classroom,”” Weiner said about professors.

    Individually and as a department, the history department evaluations are read and taken seriously.

    “”We want to make sure there aren’t any teaching problems,”” Weiner said.

    Additionally, it allows them to single out particularly good teachers and ask them, “”What’s your secret?”” Weiner added.

    Manuel Valencia, a mathematics sophomore, said while none of the evaluations havedriven him away from a class, it is useful to know the reputations of the teachers.

    Weiner said students should be cautious about using evaluations when registering for courses.

    Instructor personality traits may influence student perceptions, Weiner said.

    Although it is good if an instructor is charismatic, it is not an essential element to the job of teaching.

    “”We try to be interesting, but students still have a responsibility to take notes and pay attention,”” he said, referring to what students perceive as boring professors.

    Other Web sites, such as Ratemyprofessors.com and the new Pickaprof.com, are also options for students.

    Pick-A-Prof even links to the online site Facebook.com so students can see how their friends rate their professors, said Karen Bragg, director of university relations for Pick-A-Prof.

    RateMyProfessors, which has the most evaluations for the UA than any other non-UA ratings Web site, asks questions such as how easy or helpful a teacher is, as well as how “”hot”” a teacher appears to be.

    Still, Sean Pabst, a political science senior, said he does not research professors at all, and instead is drawn into a course by an interesting course description.

    The evaluation results represent the opinions of the vast majority of UA students, since about 75 percent to 80 percent of students fill out the evaluation forms, Johnson said.

    Penaranda said she filled out the evaluation forms when the teachers were either really good or really bad.

    “”They’ll either really make me happy or piss me off,”” she said.

    Despite not relying on the UA evaluation system when deciding on courses, Valencia said he does fill out the forms.

    “”I think it’s pretty good that you can let the teachers know what your experiences are,”” Valencia said.

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