Teacher evaluations provide good learning tools for professors, students alike

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TEVALs, or teacher evaluations, serve as a way for students to provide their input on teachers. (Jacinda Dent | The Collegian)

K-State offers two ways for students to evaluate teachers and courses that usually takes place at the end of the semester: TEVALs and IDEA reports. Each report lets students offer feedback on their classroom learning experience and helps teachers understand areas they need to improve.

“From personal experience, when I have a good teacher I kind of just rush through and fill out the evaluation form with good marks,” Sami Powers, freshman in communication sciences and disorders, said. “If I had a bad teacher, I would personally take time to say why I think that teacher demonstrated bad teaching qualities because I wouldn’t want students to have that teacher. But, so far I have had all good teachers. Maybe that’s because of the course evaluation process, I don’t know.”

K-State leaves it up to the different colleges and departments to choose what kind of teacher evaluation they want to implement within their programs.

The TEVALs can be administered either electronically or on paper to be handwritten. The electronic TEVALs may open to students at any time in the semester to take and it is up to the professor to create the questions included on the form. The handwritten TEVAL forms include standard questions such as “Does the instructor increase your desire to learn more about this subject?” and may include up to 20 extra questions specifically designed by the instructor, according to the K-State Teaching and Learning website.

IDEA forms are administered in person for all on-campus courses and online for distance education classes. IDEA forms offer a more detailed way for students to evaluate teachers based on how well they felt the teachers taught the objectives for that particular course. They also evaluate whether students felt they left the class feeling that they could show excellence pertaining to the certain objectives. Teachers are allowed to fill in an additional 20 questions to IDEA forms as well.

“The IDEA form is much more detailed,” Torry Dickinson, professor in women’s studies, said. “It provides more detailed feedback to teachers so they can actually strengthen parts of the class. They can maintain certain parts of the class, work on parts of the class that come up as weaker and it is very much tied into the learning outcomes.”

In addition, teachers all fill out a form called a Faculty Information Form, similar to the one students fill out. The difference is that they fill out how they taught the class, the factors that played into how well they taught the class and what types of students took the course with them that semester.

The evaluation forms aren’t just about helping teachers better their teaching styles; the Dean’s Advisory Committee uses evaluation forms when making their decisions regarding promotions and tenure, and also when deciding awards for professors to receive.

The process then moves from the students’ and teachers’ hands to those of the Teaching and Learning Center, where scores are averaged for each category. The teachers receive the forms back, usually after the grading period is over. Department heads can offer suggestions on how to better a certain category if it has a low average rating for students, but Dickinson said the teacher should note that even if the department head doesn’t come and talk to them about it.

“That’s something for teachers to really think about like, ‘I don’t understand what the objectives of the class were or I didn’t think the readings were relevant to the class,'” Dickinson said. “If you have enough of those, you need to take them seriously because it means you are not communicating or you need to change things, or both.”

The university also looks at how well teachers do over a period of time when processing evaluation forms and considering mitigating factors like class size. There are a lot of factors that can bias student evaluation forms, like the likeability of the professor teaching the course or the student’s familiarity with the material; that is taken into consideration in each evaluation.

The evaluation forms aren’t just about helping teachers better their teaching styles; the Dean’s Advisory Committee uses evaluation forms when making their decisions regarding promotions and tenure, and also when deciding awards for professors to receive.

“I think teacher evaluations are an accurate representation of how students feel and are very important,” Jordan Stuckey, sophomore in social work, said. “Since they’re anonymous, I feel completely comfortable sharing my honest thoughts.”

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