College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Professors Strike Back?

By Eduwonkette — January 30, 2008 1 min read
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What’s worse: evaluating college quality using standardized tests (Madame Secretary’s pet project), or relying on Rate My Professors? At Rate My Professors, students rate their professors on “educational” qualities like their hotness, their easiness, their helpfulness, and their clarity. (Here’s a nice Village Voice article about RMP; hat tip: Mike Arnzen). Now MTV has kicked off a spoof called “Professors Strike Back,” in which profs respond to comments ranging from “I want to be her slave” to “Eats children for breakfast.”

A mocking blog called Rate Your Students has emerged in response - you can read about some unbeloved students in this post (Head-Nodders, Laptop Kids, Winter Flip Floppers, and Some Nefarious Wannabe Gangsters. Where is that Walmart Application?).

Don’t get me wrong - I’m all for the course evaluations that are typical at most campuses. Because everyone (who shows up) completes one, you have a full sample of students - not just the angry and elated - and narrative sections allow students to provide meaningful feedback on how to tweak the course in the future. Propositioning is generally not included, though students still throw in the occasional pediatric temper tantrum.

I’m undecided on whether and how colleges should make course evaluations public. On one hand, the public release of formal evaluations would help students decide among many courses. On the other hand, a student-driven evaluation system creates incentives to pander to Gen Facebook, and further encourages the “I’m paying, so I deserve an easy A” consumerism of many students.

So I’m on the fence about the role of course evaluations in assessing college teaching. Readers, what’s your take? How should profs’ teaching be evaluated?

Update: To clarify, there are at least 4 questions raised by this post:

1) How should learning be evaluated in college?

2) Are course evaluations a fair and comprehensive measure of college teaching? (Of course not, in my opinion.)

3) What should universities do with student course evaluations?

4) What are the potential risks/benefits to students and profs of making them public?

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