How about Assessing professors!!

Last week we talked about how we as professors assess our students and gauge how much knowledge they acquired from our courses. An important question here arises. How professors are being assessed themselves?

Probably the most widely known method of evaluating university professors these days is this survey given to the students at the end of each semester to evaluate their instructors. While I believe this to be an effective way of evaluating whether the instructor has achieved the aspirations of his students in making them understand the content, I think other evaluation methods should be available to have a more complete picture. What about monitoring instructors? The department can hire an evaluation committee composed of 3-5 faculty members who are selected anonymously. A new committee should be hired each academic year and each faculty could only participate in this committee once every 3-5 years so that all the faculty members in the department can take their turn and join the committee. A camera should be installed in each classroom and each instructor should sign a consent form that he is agreeing to be monitored. Only 4 or 5 lectures are randomly recorded and selected to be used in the evaluation, but the instructor doesn’t know which lectures are being recorded. This selection strategy is to ensure that the faculty members in the evaluation committee are not overwhelmed as they have their own research and teaching responsibilities. The evaluation should be fair and any conflict of interest (i.e. one professor from the committee is working on a project with an instructor) should be clearly reported to the department. While reviewing the recorded lectures, the evaluation committee should evaluate the instructor according to how he treats his students, the effort he exerts in making his students understand the content he is trying to convey, whether his knowledge is up to date, and other factors that the department feels necessary. Finally, the committee should submit an evaluation report to the department for each instructor. I know this may have some ethical problems but I think it may be one of the additional ways that can be used beside student surveys.

 

10 Responses so far.

  1. yiliu16 says:

    Thanks for the post! I agree that the professors need to be evaluated, but I’m not sure if monitoring them is a good way. My concern is that everyone can have a different teaching style, and some people might just not appreciate others’, while different teaching styles can also be as good as others. Also, I don’t like the idea of being monitored while I’m teaching. I could get nervous and not teach as well as I should be.

  2. Ken Black says:

    Hi,

    So aside from certain issues with regards to taping students, let alone unknown taping, there is a slightly different way that might be useful for everyone.

    Instead of monitoring, you could coach professors. What this means is instead of trying to find something wrong, you look for both strengths and weakness and play to them. If the same person/observer comes in a few times over the semester and simply observes with the intent to help rather than ridicule there can actually be positive feedback. Even the best have something they can polish up.

    The most important part is to let people know the observer is there to help, and if the professor/observed is engaged in the process instead of getting critiques second-hand a relationship can be formed and feedback is valued.

  3. A. Nelson says:

    I think there are lots of ways that instructors can be (and are being) evaluated, and many ways to improve on that, but have some concerns about the system you propose. My interests in evaluating the quality of instruction fall are similar to my approach to evaluating student learning. The first question is: What’s the point of the assessment? Are you trying to measure / quantify how good or bad something is against a real or ideal scale? Or is the goal to develop a nuanced picture of what’s working and what could be better?
    Learning environments are complex systems, and I always remind myself (and others) of that whenever we get all excited about “assessing” the “effectiveness” of one component or another — especially, as is nearly always the case, when that kind of assessing happens in contextual isolation.
    At VT, most higher ed institutions, faculty are required to use a range of tools to monitor and improve their effectiveness as teachers. These include peer reviews (having people sit in on your class), teaching support groups, syllabus / curriculum consultation, etc. The paper trail left by peer reviews and student evaluations becomes an important part of tenure and promotion dossiers.
    One of the concerns I would have about compulsory taping of class sessions is that 1) it reinforces the idea that lecturing is the only / best form of teaching; and 2) it suggests that the F2F class session is the only place where learning happens. I know some of the best learning happens outside the classroom and I think that also holds for teaching. What we do in class is important, but is just one aspect of a much more complicated picture.

  4. AbdelRahman says:

    Thanks for your proposed method of evaluating instructors. Talking about myself, I will not feel comfortable at all if I know that I am monitored. I think this could put pressure on instructors and come with an opposite result. This could force instructors to concentrate more on their in-class response than on delivering information to students. Instructors should feel free to manage their classes the way they want provided that the majority of their class can follow the materials.
    For example, some instructors like to give a short talk like fifteen minutes and then give in-class problems that students work on in groups of two or three. He wants them to think and understand better based on what he illustrated. If you to monitor this instructor you will feel that he is doing nothing however, he uses an effective way of delivering information.
    I think the best way is to have a committee that discuss with instructors the evaluations they got at the end of the semester. By this, the instructor will be able to improve himself while being free in his class.

  5. I think it is important to assess professors but, I think your proposal has some logistical problems. First cameras would be expensive and it would be quite an investment to only use periodically. Not to mention the resistance I imagine students and instructors might have to being filmed. I think a better solution is to have dedicated teaching faculty who undergo continuous pedagogical education. The student reviews are useful as well. I also believe professors peer-evaluating their teaching is a good idea.

  6. Mary Semaan says:

    A lot of the time, it is not the professors that need to be assessed. The format of the class needs to change. I would suggest having them take the same class we are taking now, tailored of course to their busy schedule. But a compulsory course in contemporary pedagogy will NOT hurt anyone 🙂

  7. Cortney Steele says:

    Interesting post and proposition! I think it would be difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of a class that I wasn’t extremely familiar with the nature of or content. Would the committee members all be from the same department? If so that may create bias in itself.I think observations and constructive feedback are always helpful especially from a colleague! However, I don’t believe monitoring/video taping classrooms/professors is the best way to go about it.

  8. jshreckhise says:

    You have a great point about instructor evaluations; end-of-the-semester evaluations are effective, but not ideal. Having randomly-selected lectures recorded and evaluated by a committee is possible, but a huge step to implement. Another approach is requiring students to complete midterm instructor evaluations (in addition to the end-of-semester evaluations). I think one of the biggest problems with end-of-the-semester evaluations is the student mindset, “what’s in it for me?” When students realize the evaluations could actually improve their learning experience (as in the case of midterm evaluations), they will likely be much for mindful when completing them.

  9. Freddie Salado says:

    Thanks for sharing your idea and let me tell you that I agree that the professors should be evaluated, however It seems to me that they will not allow that somebody record them. For example when I did my MSCE, there was this professor that believed that he had the power of evaluating other professors from the Civil Engineering department. He used to attend other professors classes without telling them. Just because of this every professor said that the only way that they should be evaluated was by the student who are learning from them. Another thing is, how often do you think they should be monitored? I have noticed that some professors tend to reduce their level of teaching every year. Somebody that has been teaching for 3 years will not have the same emotion to teach like one that has been teaching for 20 years and is getting tired of it.

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