Students grading teachers

J. Fred Fox | reporter

Students’ Perception of Teaching Effectiveness (SPTE), or the surveys of teachers that are given toward the end of the semester, can have a pretty significant impact on some faculty, one professor says.
“After the semester is over, I receive a results summary and the comments,” said Ananda Jayawardhana, professor of mathematics. “I read the comments. Like, if my handwriting is bad … I work on that.”
The class evaluations are most useful for professors to react to student opinions of their teaching and improve. They’re also used by deans and chairs of departments in deciding tenure, promotion and salary assessments, Jayawardhana says.
Some students may not take them very seriously. This causes the survey to have to compensate and catch students who just fill in random bubbles on the answer sheet.
“I only do it if they’re terrible and need pointers. Once I drew a stick figure with an ax in the comment section they were so bad,” said Jordan Wojensky, sophomore in electrical engineering.
Emily Rausch says that she finds the survey process to be a useful way to review the job performance of her instructors.
“I usually say things I liked and things they could change. I assess the way they taught the class or if they’re really mean or not organized,” said Rausch, sophomore in biology.
The SPTEs are administered by proctors to ensure confidentiality, and are turned in to department secretaries. They are then sent to Wichita State University’s (WSU)’s Social Science Research Lab, where they are processed.
Instructors don’t receive results back until after grades are turned in, so students don’t have to worry that their grade might be affected by giving their teacher a bad report.
Results measure perception of teaching, course quality and course demands. Results are corrected for student motivation, such as for a required course, by including checkpoints to eliminate random markings, according to WSU’s lab.
“I make comments if I think the teacher is unfair, but most of the time I talk to the teacher about issues beforehand,” said Peter Meier, senior in premedical biology.
Conner Paustian says that he suspects that one of his professors behaved nicely toward students only to avoid a critical review.
“I had a teacher who did a complete 180 and turned mean the day after the evaluation,” said Paustian, junior in biology.
Sean O’Neil, graduate teaching assistant in history, also gives his own form of SPTE to his students.
“I’m required to administer my own evaluation and show it to my supervisor. I really enjoy the feedback. One time I was called a ‘bad-ass,’” O’Neil said.
Instructors don’t always value the SPTEs. Some don’t think that it’s an effective tool for grading teacher quality. However, SPTEs aren’t the only form of rating for teachers.
To conduct a complete instructor review, administrators and supervisors will also use course materials, peer evaluations and syllabi.
They also look at graded exams and papers to make decisions on instructor tenure, promotion and salary, says Timothy Flood, professor of mathematics and chair of the department of mathematics and physics.

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