Let’s discuss student opinion forms, course evaluations, student evaluation of teaching forms, whatever term you use. Article after article year after year highlight how toxic they are. More recently the emphasis has been on how they differ according to instructor gender and race—though it’s really the STUDENTS, not the forms, that are biased. See
Moreover, these issues are mass-publicized—this isn’t exclusive to Inside Higher Ed. This topic has been covered by the Washington Post, Forbes, and NPR.
What isn’t covered as much (though it makes a brief appearance in the NPR article) are the other negative realities of student course evals beyond the race/gender bias. How they discourage faculty from trying new things in the classroom at the risk of having lower evaluations. How they encourage faculty to be lenient to the point of not actually teaching the students anything and becoming an “easy A.” How evals pressure faculty to teach to the forms because they are used so heavily as a measure of teaching quality and effectiveness when one goes up for tenure or a contract renewal.
It’s past the point of being sad and is now just downright ridiculous. Check out this article from chroniclevitae that discusses baking brownies or cookies for students before evals. And here’s a lovely blogpost (note the sarcasm) that suggests—and I quote: “Lie and tell [students] you know they’re working hard.” It also echoes chroniclevitae in recommending chocolate.
I’m frankly tired of seeing these articles about how terrible evaluations are. It’s not news. We know. We’re just choosing not to do anything about it.
Required reading for any academic is Philip Roth’s “The Human Stain.” In the first few pages an older, tenured professor is “forced to retire.”
There were two students who never were present when he called roll. Even after roll when they would technically just be “late,” they weren’t there. After weeks of this, he called their names one day, found them to be absent still ever yet, and said to the rest of the class—direct quote:
“Does anyone know these people? Do they exist, or are they spooks?”
The truant students, who again this professor had NEVER MET in part as they had NEVER BEEN TO CLASS, happened to be black.
So the professor subsequently was labeled a racist, and fired.
The AMS encourages your comments, and hopes you will join the discussions. We review comments before they are posted, and those that are offensive, abusive, off topic or promoting a commercial product, person or website will not be posted. Expressing disagreement is fine, but mutual respect is required.