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College of Arts & Sciences

Recommendations for Administration and Use of Student Evaluations of Teaching

Recommendations for Administration and Use of Student Evaluations of Teaching

A College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Learning Community sought to understand how faculty can get better information out of Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs). Based on significant reading and monthly discussions during academic year 2016-17, they offer the following recommendations regarding strategies for administering SETs, using the information they provide, and evaluating teaching beyond the SET. Effective teaching involves comprehensive subject knowledge, proper preparation and organization, intelligent design of course materials, stimulation of student interest, etc. While students are able to assess their own experience of a class, SETs by themselves cannot identify overall “teaching effectiveness” and should not be interpreted as being more precise than they actually are.

Recommendations for Departments

Focus on scores for individual questions and written comments, rather than just the overall score (in Class Climate this is the “Global Index”) or, indeed, any one SET number.

Consider external variables (e.g., required or elective class) over which the instructor has no control. These have been found to affect the scores on SETs.

Take particular care with evaluations of women, minorities, and non-native speakers. The literature has extensively documented that student biases often punish faculty for “norm violations” (i.e. not matching expectations of how “a professor” should appear).

Form teaching evaluation committees to perform that segment of annual evaluations.

Use more than SETs in faculty evaluation: both annually and for P&T. A wider range of teaching evaluation materials, e.g., a subset of those used for P&T dossiers, allows for a fuller picture of a faculty member’s teaching.

Facilitate faculty discussions concerning definitions of and goals for good teaching. Defining our goals as teachers is important both in regard to our role as educators and for mentoring junior colleagues.

Recommendations for Faculty

Do not use incentives (food, extra credit) for students to complete evaluations.

Use a script or slide to explain the purposes of SETs, emphasizing the role of written comments in changing methods of instruction.

Set aside class time—if possible—for the completion of evaluations.

Recommendations for the College

Re-evaluate the use of overall score in P&T dossiers.

More teaching-development opportunities (e.g. workshops and FLCs) will help to create a culture where the complexity of teaching is valued and SETs are appreciated for the insights they can offer.

Class Climate (or equivalent) would be more useful if students’ numerical scores and written comments could be grouped together.

Members of the Faculty Learning Community on Evaluating Student Evaluations of Teaching

Claudia Gonzalez-Vallejo (Psychology)

Dan Hembree (Geological Sciences)

Mary Kate Hurley (English)

Jaclyn Maxwell (History/Classics & World Religions)

Daniel Phillips (Physics & Astronomy)

Julie Roche (Physics & Astronomy)

Rose Rossiter (Economics)

Nancy Tatarek (Sociology & Anthropology)

Laurie Hatch (College of A&S Dean’s Office, Sociology & Anthropology) and Tim Vickers (Center for Teaching and Learning) also participated in the Faculty Learning Community.

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