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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Evaluating Evaluations

Sociology+Department+Chair+Russell+Schutt%2C+end-of-semester+teacher+and+course+evaluations+are+the+%26%238220%3Bsingle+most+important+source+of+information%26%238221%3B+when+assessing+the+quality+faculty+member%26%238217%3Bs+teaching
Sociology Department Chair Russell Schutt, end-of-semester teacher and course evaluations are the “single most important source of information” when assessing the quality faculty member’s teaching

After a busy semester being graded on what they have learned themselves, the time is near when roles reverse and students are given an opportunity to provide feedback for their teachers.
According to Sociology Department Chair Russell Schutt, end-of-semester teacher and course evaluations are the “single most important source of information” when assessing the quality of a faculty member’s teaching.
Every department within each college has their own distinct evaluative instruments and processes. Students can be assured that the practice is required campus-wide, and every department arranges administrative procedures to preserve student confidentiality.
Generally, professors choose one of the last class sessions of a term to leave the classroom 15 to 30 minutes early while a student volunteer distributes and collects the course evaluation forms. The evaluations are completed anonymously, and the forms are then filed for posterity after being read.
Instructors do not read evaluations until they have turned in their student’s grades. All evaluations by students are incorporated into an overall evaluation of each faculty member’s teaching during an annual faculty review conducted by a panel of peers in a Department Personnel Committee.
Whether up for merit-based salary bumps, promotions, tenure review, or for new professors in probationary status looking to be rehired, student evaluations can play a significant role in determining outcomes.
“If a problem is reported or there is a general concern or an award possibility involving an instructor or a course, we might [look] to the evaluations for more insight. [I] do not know that we have ever thrown any out,” said Chair of Mathematics Department Eric Grinberg.
Evaluations can also have a huge impact for tenure-track faculty in their fourth and sixth year reviews. During these reviews a cumulative easement of all the evaluations from a teacher’s time at the University of Massachusetts Boston are used to evaluate the faculty members’ teaching over time. In some cases individual students are reached out too for further comment on a faculty member’s performance.
“In general the evaluations are considered cumulatively. [If] somebody has been teaching for a few years we tend to see improvements [through] the cumulative perception of students over time,” said Grinberg.
Associate Dean David Terkla from the College of Liberal Arts assures that teacher evaluations are equally significant for non-tenure track faculty. The evaluations serve as a primary means of assessment in a separate promotional cycle based solely upon teaching rather than the combination of teaching, research and service required of full professors.
Beyond any institutionalized incentives however, Associate Provost and Director of the Honors College Rajini Srikanth describes the evaluations as “significant for an [instructors] continuous ability to refine [their] teaching. [Student] input is valued, and can impact aspects of a course to be restructured.” Additionally, Srikanth finds that “faculty members [at UMass Boston] take a lot of pride in their teaching, [and] if it becomes obvious through evaluations that they have failed to achieve their objectives, [it] is very unlikely the faculty member will not pay attention.”
Feedback is valued from all students, no matter how they think they’ve done in a course. “There are students who are wonderfully self-reflective and will say ‘I could have taken greater part in the discussion’ and see their own failings, yet this does not prevent them from recognizing what [was] working well in the course,” Srikanth says, “those students can be extremely nuanced in approaching the assessments, and that’s what we’re looking for.”