In a summary of a future to-be-published article, the Chronicle noted in an article titled “Students Lie on Course Evaluations” that students admitted lying in a way that harms faculty in student course evaluations. That’s the “A” word that relates to faculty promotion and evaluation-assessments students make of faculty.
Faculty who study the field know that course evaluations should be only one of many items that are considered when evaluating faculty performance for retention, tenure or promotion. Our University’s policy is that there are many factors that should be factored in to a decision about how well faculty encourage student learning. Yet, many who are on faculty committees will spend an inordinate about of time developing and applying complex formulas to incorporate the results of course evaluations in a way that makes those course evaluations the pre-eminent determinant of faculty performance.
Why is it that we are so comfortable with using course evaluation numbers as the primary factor to determine whether someone is a good teacher? Those numbers can be so easily manipulated. I know of some faculty who give students treats before the evaluations are administered. That has an impact on perception.
A couple of times I’ve returned exam results immediately before evaluations were administered. Since everyone was not happy with those results, my course evaluations declined. Although my overall course evaluation numbers have been good, I know that I have done things that have an impact on the evaluations and that those things are not directly related to teaching.
Perhaps the study referenced in the article will help us agree on the appropriate weight for student evaluations so that faculty can work on creating a learning environment instead of pleasing students.