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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Teacher-Course Evaluations should be thoughtfully filled out

I filled out my first Teacher-Course Evaluation form of the semester last week. As usual, the professor had a volunteer collect the forms and as she left the room, she encouraged us to answer the questionnaire honestly.

I took my time filling out the form, as did many of my classmates, but more than half of them finished so quickly I have a hard time believing they took it seriously.

There are more than 40 years worth of research establishing the validity of student feedback surveys in relation to teaching effectiveness, according to Jennifer Franklin, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support Evaluation Services. The Teacher-Course Evaluations are used by more than 90 percent of the departments on campus as part of their annual review process of faculty, Franklin said.

These annual reviews help to determine the contracts professors are offered, including whether or not they will be given tenure.

Professors also have the option to add questions to their surveys. Answers are kept confidential between the professor and OIRPS and are used by professors to improve their own performance.

Since jobs and contracts are on the line, OIRPS goes to great lengths to ensure the data is both reliable and valid. All data is reported with a margin of error, a precaution most universities don’t use, according to Franklin.

Also, instead of showing averages, OIRPS provides the departments with the frequencies of each student answer.

OIRPS is also careful to ensure the departments are comparing equivalent data when reviewing. This is important because class size, course division and subject matter have a statistically significant effect on the ratings. For example, upper-division classes tend to receive better ratings than lower-level classes.

There is also research that suggests a likeable professor who has ineffective teaching methods will not receive better ratings, Franklin said. Easy professors are not necessarily likely to receive higher ratings either because the department can monitor the class syllabus and grading.

We also all know of professors who have left us scratching our heads wondering how they ever made it so far in school and it’s our responsibility to let the university know about their performance.

But there are also professors who inspire us to continue through our education and these professors should be rewarded.

OIRPS does its job to make the data as valid as possible and it’s up to us to help out by answering the Teacher-Course Evaluations thoughtfully and honestly. An important part of being invested in our education is reviewing the services we’re receiving from the university and Teacher-Course Evaluations are our best chance to do just that.

— Nathaniel Drake is a political science and communications sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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