Rethinking Emerson#039;s course evaluations

by Beacon Staff • December 13, 2006

Our view: They need to be reformed in a host of other ways.

This semester marks the first time course and teacher evaluations have gone online. No longer will we waste class time listening to a volunteer student go over the painfully detailed instructions.,At issue: Course and professor evaluations have gone online.

Our view: They need to be reformed in a host of other ways.

This semester marks the first time course and teacher evaluations have gone online. No longer will we waste class time listening to a volunteer student go over the painfully detailed instructions. Gone is the familiar tradition of collectively stalling for time to keep the professor out of the room as long as possible.

Emerson adminstrators are wise to start making reforms to what is a rather fruitless endeavor that students never seem to take seriously, but this latest development fails to address its most glaring deficiencies.

While evaluations have been made electronic, their content is, unfortunately, exactly the same.

It's a few valuable questions interspersed with idiotic ones. Is it even possible to "strongly agree" that a professor started class on time?

It's sad to think this arduous series of questions, indifferently rushed through by many students, may actually have an impact in deciding the fate of professors will at Emerson.

One suggestion would be to ask more open-ended questions about the class, the texts and the instructor. Moreover, if students were asked to critique the department of their major, the school's facilities and the college in general at the end of each semester, administrators may learn more about how better to educate its students.

Another flaw in the evaluation system is that the results are not made public to the student body.

When it comes time to pick classes every semester, students are left to rely on a different sort of teacher evaluations, RateMyProfessors.com, where students go to take out their frustrations on teachers who, presumably, gave them a bad grade.

While the site is amusing, it is ultimately unreliable, disorganized and unregulated.

The comments, which range from hostile to fawning without much in the way of a middle ground, are not exactly the most measured form of feedback.

One improvement would be for Emerson to make evaluations available to students for review. This could be done through Interactive Services on the school's e-campus web site or by appointment with the advising office. Doing so would provide a way for students to make informed choices about their courses, which they pay a good deal of money to attend.

It would also provide an extra level of accountability for professors who could deal with declining attendence if they are given poor evaluations.

The choice between a good professor and a poor one can make a dratic difference between truly being engaged in the material and not. Students should have access to a regulated forum that will tell them if they are taking a risk on a particular teacher.

On the other side, professors, whose jobs are often dependent on these forms, deserve evaluations that are not so impractical in their questioning.

For this process to work it is imperative students take these evaluations seriously. Those who use these forms to take vitriolic shots at instructors are only hurting their fellow students who could benefit from serious analysis.

With some effort, these evaluations could go from irrelevant to invaluable.

Hopefully, the process of reforming them is only beginning.