Department heads take evaluations seriously

By Amanda Hunt

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It is that time of the semester when students are buried in books, finals, papers and teacher evaluations.

Students may wonder what happens to those mysterious pink forms after the storm of paperwork comes to an end.

Jennifer Franklin, coordinator of faculty development at the Department of Test Scoring and Evaluation, said the faculty will see the results from this semester's evaluations in the middle of January.

The department provides evaluation forms for more than 3,500 course sections in about 130 subject areas each semester, Franklin said.

"(The evaluations provide) anonymous feedback from students and are an excellent and unique source of information," she said.

She said the purpose is not to rate the person's expertise in his or her field, but to receive feedback from the most important person in the classroom the student.

Franklin said the evaluations are taken seriously, and she emphasized the importance of monitors following the instructions. For example, she said last spring semester a student monitor failed to return three evaluation packets for a professor. These types of errors render the evaluations useless, she said.

It is also important for as many students as possible to respond, she said. Otherwise there is an inadequate sample of student opinions.

Franklin said students often disregard evaluations and many times teachers will have them mid

handed out at the end of class, instead of at the beginning as they are advised to, and students leave without filling them out.

"I think there's a percentage of students who take them seriously ... but there's another group of students who just want to get out," said Chris Cisco, education junior.

"If a teacher does really well, I like to give them good feedback," said Christine Habermaas, an anthropology sophomore.

Evaluations are used to help in promotion and tenure decisions, provide information for improving curriculum and teaching tactics and to help students select courses, Franklin said.

Not all courses are evaluated, and not all use the evaluation service provided by the department, she said. Some academic departments use their own form, like the English department.

Gene Koppel, English undergraduate program director, said teachers do not like to have to give up class time especially near the end of the semester to have students fill out two forms.

Koppel said the English department takes the evaluations seriously but added that there is a danger with strict evaluation.

"It pressures teachers to loosen up their standards (in order to receive positive feedback)," he said.

Jeremy Palmenteri, a business and Italian senior, said he takes the evaluations seriously but thinks some tenured professors do not take them seriously. "They don't think (the evaluations) are going to have a positive effect for the educational system or their particular department," he said.

"I always pay very careful attention to teacher evaluations," said Leonard Dinnerstein, history professor. "They have alerted me to things that I should know about."

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