When Students Grade Professors
Some fill it with vindictive fervour against what they perceive as a semester spent in purgatory; a few, with the reverence of someone who believes that they spent 4 months under the tutelage of someone awe-inspiring. But most of us fill the course feedback with a sense of annoyance, quickly marking each question just so that we can get to see the grades afterwards. Regarded as a mere formality that has no effect whatsoever on how the course is conducted, many of us don’t care tuppence about how we fill the course feedback.
The Course Evaluation Form was born when the institute felt that every instructor should get some feedback of how their course was perceived among the students, allowing him to make any suitable modifications to the course structure and delivery.
The feedback forms were filled manually by students during class hours under the supervision of another professor (not the instructor). The feedback forms were then scanned and evaluated by the Academic Office to give a rating to the professor. This rating was calculated using a formula
dependent on the student’s CPI and also his attendance. The rating and comments were collated and sent to the Heads of Departments. A copy of the same was sent to the course instructor and it was expected that he will bring about the necessary
changes required, if any.
In recent years with the rising influx of students as well as number of courses, the Academic Office could no longer handle the sheer workload. Due to this, the evaluation form was made online, allowing the forms to be directly uploaded to the server, bypassing the Academic Office. But with the form being online, and no instructor breathing down their necks, most students no longer had any reason to fill the form, and simply gave it a miss.
Which brings us to status-quo; to ensure that all students fill the form, the institute has effectively made it mandatory to do so by withholding a student’s grade until he has submitted that
particular course’s feedback as well as disallowing
him from registering for the following semester. But the current system still has many flaws, many students still do not take the form seriously, often marking all answers as ‘Neutral’ or otherwise. Many students who have never attended lectures also fill the form, resulting in an uniformed feedback for the unfortunate instructor. The form itself suffers from its vague language and an absence of separate sections for the course and for the instructor, leaving several students confused.
Owing to the number of inherent problems with the current course evaluation form, a committee headed by Prof. Ravi Sinha of Civil Engineering, has been established at the institute level to look into the same. The committee is composed of various faculty members as well as both the GSAAs and is looking into various reforms that could be implemented. It is scheduled to make its recommendation to the Under Graduate Program Committee (UGPC) and Post Graduate Program Committee (PGPC) by the end of November. It is expected that any recommendations they make, will be implemented by the spring semester of 2011–12.
Although any suggested reforms haven’t yet been made public, InsIghT obtained a couple of expected recommendations that could go into the course evaluation committee’s report:
• Every course has a different teaching methodology, which then effects the way the course evaluation form is filled up. While some courses run in LHC with more than 200 students, some are taught with just 20. Others involve the use of CDEEP videos with student-faculty interaction at a minimum. In such an environment, having the same course evaluation form for all the courses is inconvenient, due to which, different forms such as Form A, Form B etc. will be used for different courses. Each form will be accompanied with certain guidelines that will explain what are the kind of courses it should be used in.
• Many times, because the students do not like the course content that is being taught, they blame the faculty and hence the faculty suffers, because he receives a bad review. In order to address this problem, subsequent course evaluation forms will have separate sections for the faculty evaluation and the course evaluation, helping to isolate the problem at hand.
• It is also felt that various parts of the evaluation form should be made public, in order to create an environment of transparency and stimulate the faculty members into incorporating the changes suggested by the students. However, not all parts of the form can be blindly made public, owing to some vindictive students putting something slanderous in text. Therefore, the forms will be made partially public, while keeping some of it private. What is to be kept public and what is private is still being debated upon by the committee.
All in all, the course evaluation form in its current state has a large number of troublesome issues ranging from credibility to content; hopefully the recommendations will solve most, if not all these issues. The rationale behind conducting such a feedback is one of helping to improve the quality of teaching in the institute. Hopefully we’ll get to see a much better form in the future for feedback in the near future such that neither students nor professors are left short-changed.