Prof evaluations essential for reappointment and promotion

Over the years, professors come and go here at the College. Students take the same courses semester after semester and experience the classes differently each time. But when the semester comes to an end, one thing never changes — student feedback forms.

“Students are able to give voice about how successful the course was,” David Blake, professor and chair of the English department, said.

These course evaluation forms have been used for numerous years and are similar to those at other colleges and universities.

Every semester, as professors and students wrap up the class, the student feedback forms are passed out and the professor leaves to give the students time to evaluate the course and the professor’s teaching methods.

“It is the best way for students to provide feedback that’s actually taken seriously by faculty and administration,” junior political science major Corey Dwyer said. “Most professors really take what we have to say into account for the future — especially the written comments.”

The forms consist of a two-sided page, which allows students to anonymously grade how well the professor and the course was on a scale of one to five, five being the best. After rating the professor’s ways of teaching and the course’s challenging aspects, students can leave written comments on the back for the professor specifically.

“The professor, department chair and dean also receive a summary report with the frequency of each ‘bubbled’ response, the mean for each question and an overall mean for the ‘Instructor Questions’ and ‘Course Questions’,” said Paula A.Y. Maas, executive director of the Center for Institutional Effectiveness.

After all have been completed, one student from the class fills out the information on the envelope, seals it, prints and signs their name on the back and brings it to the respective department for that class.

Every student at the College takes part in this routine, but do they actually follow the directions and take these forms seriously?

“Absolutely,” said Christina Kopka, sophomore marketing and Spanish double major. “I feel it’s the best way to give your opinion honestly without fear of getting on a professor’s bad side.”

“I have seen that the forms are very important at (the College), and I know that instructors are especially appreciative when students take the time to fill them out thoughtfully,” said Carol Bresnahan, provost and executive vice-President of the College.

Professors see the forms after the semester has concluded and grades have been submitted. Bresnahan said they take the feedback very seriously because of the effect it can have on their position as a teacher at the College.

“Because current reappointment and promotion guidelines require faculty to submit at least three years of (Student Feedback Forms) data as part of the application materials, faculty members should retain in a secure place at least the last three years of forms and tabulated data sheets,” Bresnahan said.

Nevertheless, the feedback forms are considered valuable sources for promotion and reappointment, as well as reappointment for tenure.

“For instance, I have seen the College Promotions Committee review the forms very carefully to be sure that applicants for promotion have in fact met the requirements,” Bresnahan said. “At the same time, the forms are only part of what a faculty member should present as evidence of good teaching. Other forms of evidence would include peer evaluation of teaching, copies of the syllabuses and the like.”

Students are not required to fill out these feedback forms, but they are important in helping the different departments on campus to have the best professors and offer the most influential and valuable courses to the students here at the College.

The student feedback forms are critical in reforming the courses and professors here at the College. By taking them seriously, students and faculty are working together to make the academics at the College better for all.

Hilarey Wojtowicz can be reached at wojtowi3@tcnj.edu.