It’s that time again – the time when the tables turn for a brief period during the semester when students get to grade their professors by pulling out a No. 2 pencil and bubbling in the trusty teacher evaluation form.
The evaluation, the Instructional Development and Evaluation Assessment or IDEA evaluation system, is administered near the end of each semester, and provides students with the opportunity to rate their professors and courses on various objectives, according to Dr. Christopher White, interim chair of the Mass Communication Department.
“Students get to rate faculty on a range of selected objectives, like whether students gained factual knowledge, learned fundamental principles, developed creative capacities, learned to critically evaluate ideas, etc.,” White said.
The IDEA form asks students to answer questions about the instructor’s performance in specific areas, as well as the quality of the course. These results are compared to those of professors who teach similar courses at other colleges that use the IDEA system.
“Student evaluations help faculty understand what works and what doesn’t work in class and adjust their classes accordingly with the goal of improving their teaching,” White said.
White said the IDEA forms students fill out go from the classroom to the department chair, to the dean of the university, and then to the SHSU Office of Institutional Research before finally reaching IDEA’s national assessment center. The evaluations then come back the same route.
Senior Joyce Gillaspie said, “It’s very important for students to be able to rate their professors. If a student is unhappy, something can be done.”
White said at least once a year, faculty members speak with their department chair to discuss the student evaluations. “The [evaluations] can influence whether or not faculty get merit raises, promotions or tenure,” he said.
Gillaspie voiced concern about whether professors could potentially identify students based on the evaluations. For example, a professor could perhaps recognize the handwriting of a particular student based on the comments. White said in the Mass Communication Department, the department secretary types out students’ comments. Student confidentiality remains protected because professors never see the physical forms students complete.
“We do everything we can to maintain anonymity for the students,” White said.
Associate Dean Kandi Tayebi Ph.D. said most university departments do type out students’ evaluation comments, but it is not required. Larger departments may not, she said, because professors can have over 100 students in each class and teach three or four classes. Therefore, the number of comments would simply take too long to type. She said confidentiality is still protected because of the large number of evaluations each professor receives.
“I have never seen a professor be able to identify a student,” Tayebi said.
White also indicated that the results of the IDEA evaluations are public information. This means any student can view their professor’s results by submitting an information request to the university.
White said students pay for a service which teachers deliver.
“Students should have a right to express their opinion regarding the quality of that service,” he said. “It’s only fair.”