It's that time of the term, at least for my university anyways. I'm not sure how evaluation is done in other universities, or if at all, but at my university it's a simple process. We receive a form paper in which we fill the course information, are given a small comment section, and then are left with two options; satisfactory, and unsatisfactory.
Does anyone else see the problem with this? The only way this could be worse is if it was a "rate your teacher on the following categories on a scale of 1 - 5" type of deal, which I'm sure any slew of unscientific personality testers would love. I mean honestly, the form looks like it could have been given at the end of a car wash. Not only is it completely irrelevant, the form doesn't direct criticism. This leads to situations in which students call their professors c*nts or a variety of colourful words we've all come to love (this actually happens; I had a recent conversation with a professor about them.)
I have a stats professor who is relatively new at teaching; she just got her PhD last year. Now the mean on the last stats exam was 51. This is stats. Yes, some people may not have an aptitude for mathematics, and yes it is psych stats. But (English majors of the formality variety don't murder me for using "but" to start a sentence) really? I mean when you're in a psych stats class you aren't going to expect a lot of bright people, but 51? The requirements for statistics is junior high math, the hardest part of the course is identifying which formula to apply, because the formulas themselves require no interpretation. It goes without saying that the teacher must be doing an awful job if the average is that low, unless something was in the baby vaccinations around 1992. Now, my critiques would be related to her language barrier (there is more time for that rant later), her presentation has no transition, and she doesn't initiate the class. She also assumes that the class remembers everything they're taught from the past few classes.
University students, Psych students in particular, do NOT keep up to date with their classes. I spend all of my time in catch-up mode with the amount of work I have outside of class, and I manage to make it to the test date up-to-date. However, there's certainly no classes that I actually go into informed. Even the students who don't work go in uninformed. There's little incentive to do so, as professors don't generally mark class participation or insight within class. If you teach assuming they are informed, you're not going to have good results. Also, it's worth repeating, this is psychology.
I could go on forever about this, but it would drag away from my point. All of these points are valid and need to be said. They CANNOT be expressed in the proper context by a small comment section and a little bubble that says "Unsatisfactory." All the bubble represents is how well the student performed in comparison with how well they expected to perform, not what they thought of the actual teaching. Also, with well over 100 performance reviews coming in, there is no way all of them are actually read by a review committee. Instead of being read by a review committee they are read by the teacher. What happens when you read 100 negative reviews one after the other? Do you take it as constructive criticism and improve? No way. Unless you have the patience of a catholic school girl (the ones from my father’s "good ole days", the ones now lost whatever patience they had, I can assure you of that) you're going to read the first couple and either stop reading, or catch teenage angst quicker than Herpes from a frat party. I could be wrong; maybe you'll be a good sport "like mike" and laugh.
What are the point of these if not to be constructive? To serve as a tool to further break ties between students and professors in universities? Evaluating professors should not rest alone on the students shoulders, nor should the blame of a lost job be put on their shoulders. Why reinforce the classic “me vs. the teacher” situation, when you could make the process more objective?
Ah, if only things could be done logically. Anyways, let me know what you thought of this rant below on a scale of 1-5. I'll let you define the scale, it's more fun that way.