Why It’s Time for Faculty Teaching Reviews to Change

The way in which teaching faculty are evaluated is very faulty. Universities do typically implement different types of evaluation, however the way that these evaluations are conducted may not be effective.

Now that it is the end of the semester, I am continuously getting notifications to fill out the Student Perspectives of Teaching (SPOT) evaluations for each course. Although some professors may encourage students to fill them out, students typically receive no incentive for completing them. The SPOT reminders begin to come out right when a student is at the busiest part of their semester, which is another barrier. I would say that students usually only fill them out if they feel strongly (one way or another) towards a course or its instructor. If there were things that the instructor did that a student did not like, it is the one time when the student gets to voice their opinion, although it sometimes may turn into more of a venting session rather than providing the instructor with constructive criticism.

I believe that SPOT evaluations would be more beneficial if the professor incorporated them into their syllabus (I have one professor that does this) so that the students see that it is a professor’s priority and so that they know when to expect them. Students will be even more likely to fill it out if there is some sort of incentive like extra credit points. However, this may be difficult to track since the form is anonymous.

One of my professors recently told me that because he will have one student saying his class was the worst class he/she has ever taken, while he will also get a SPOT saying his class was the best class another student has ever taken, he doesn’t really take them to heart. Whether a professor incorporates the feedback into future teaching is solely up to them. I’ve known professors to make changes in regards to many different aspects of their teaching, while some have said it didn’t matter how many negative reviews they received, they would still move forward with teaching the same way they have always taught.

Peer teaching reviews for instructors also have their shortcomings. Instructors in my department typically review one another. The issue with this is that professors obviously do not want to create any sort of conflict with the individuals they work with on a regular basis. Therefore, this could cause reviewers to not fully be honest in their reviews.

There are also few instructors that have been trained in teaching to begin with. It may not be the best idea to ask someone to be a reviewer if they have no knowledge or experience related to pedagogical practices. One of my suggestions would be to utilize teaching faculty from other departments and/or to have more faculty trained in teaching methods.



http://imerrill.umd.edu/facultyvoice1/files/2014/04/Cartoon. jpg


4 Replies to “Why It’s Time for Faculty Teaching Reviews to Change”

  1. I agree. Maybe the faculty should pick a time slot and ask the students to do it as an in-class assignment, that way its likely that he/she gets more responses.

    1. Good idea! I think that if a faculty members puts that kind of emphasis on the students doing it, then the students are more likely to put thought into their responses. If they feel like they actually have a voice, then they would be more willing to provide constructive feedback.

  2. My biggest problem with the SPOT reviews is that they are only available for students who completed the course… which means those who drop the course for good reason never get the chance to say why. It introduces what could be a textbook example of survivor bias.

    Say for example you have an interdisciplinary course meant to teach data analytics to statistics and CS majors, and the professor makes it so math heavy it is inaccessible to the CS folks who all drop out, then all the reviews will be almost exclusively from the stat majors, who will probably give it positive marks. The department will never know the difference, or why all the CS students keep dropping out.

    The same could be said if the course has a weird schedule that conflicts with people from a certain college (the vet school is always out of sync with the rest of us), or in a much more nefarious case, if the professor created a hostile environment for a certain subset of students. Imagine if the professor makes sexist remarks, not enough to warrant a Title IX investigation but enough to drive away certain students – the only ones giving that professor a review will be the ones who were not offended and stayed in the class.

    It seems to me that asking students why they dropped is even more valuable than asking for passing students to evaluate the course. Do they even keep track of the total number of students which drop a course?

    Survivor Bias: –> http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/path-of-a-hero

    1. I have honestly never even thought of that. Hearing from students that dropped the course would be beneficial. However, I wouldn’t know the best way of providing that type of information. If you reached out to the professor, they may be hesitant to listen to a student that dropped the course. I did find this resource (below) titled “Student Complaint Resolution Procedures” from Virginia Tech Online. I have never heard of this resource but it looks promising. It says that the complaint can be either formal or informal. But yes, I fully agree that all students enrolled in a course from beginning to end should receive the SPOT eval. However, an eval from a student that dropped a course does not necessarily have to be a complaint which suggests the need for something specific to teaching evals in general.


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