At the conclusion of every semester, students at the University of La Verne can expect emails and endless reminders to complete course evaluations. But are they fair and effective?
The evaluations ask in a series of multiple choice and short answer questions how the overall course operated, aspects of the class they would like to see changed and if the professor was essentially sufficient at the job.
Students are asked to complete a course evaluation for each course they are enrolled in. And then after the evaluations are sent in they seem to disappear in a dark hole. The impact they do or do not have on course structure and faculty evaluations is not communicated to students. If students are going to be required to voice their opinions and experience in a course, they should be made aware of the context it will be utilized.
What impact completing the course evaluations have on the future of the course and the instructor teaching the course need to be made clear to students.
We understand that course evaluations factor heavily when the professor is up for a promotion or tenure. When this is the case, not every single course evaluation is accounted for, causing errors to arise.
Students should answer the evaluations honestly because if the evaluations do play a role in the future tenure or promotions of the professors teaching the course it is essential to be truthful.
Clearly students who had a terrible experience will be more inclined to leave a course evaluation than someone who was not as impacted from the course.
But studies also show course evaluations have a tendency to be biased against women and minorities. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, full-time faculty in fall 2016 were 41 percent white males, 35 percent were white females, 6 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander males, 4 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander females, 3 percent each were black males, black females, and Hispanic males, and 2 percent were Hispanic females. Groups who were American Indian/Alaska Native and those who were of two or more races each made up 1 percent or less of full-time faculty in these institutions.
Since the course evaluations are often times the only tool used to determine whether a professor is promoted or granted tenure, the weight placed on course evaluations should be reconsidered.
Controlling every variable is impossible and contributes to the implicit biases. To combat the biases against women and minorities, the University should address the weight of the course evaluations, and be conscious of the stereotyping too frequently seen in nameless/faceless evaluations. Since students are never informed of where their course evaluations are go the process should be changed in its entirety.