Students and faculty express possible concerns with TEVALs

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

Among final presentations, papers, tests and projects, many students are being asked by their instructors to fill out TEVALs, or teacher evaluations, to provide teachers with feedback on various elements of their courses.

“I think TEVALs are a great resource for students to provide their professors with constructive feedback on their teaching styles or information learned throughout the semester,” Baylee Heitschmidt, sophomore in secondary education, said.

Ann Knackendoffel, assistant professor of special education, said professors who teach a large lecture course, the results are compared to other similar large lecture courses. Conversely, if teaching a small, hands-on type of course or a seminar, then those would serve as the comparison group.

“Faculty members will fill out a series of questions regarding the course, their course load, their enthusiasm for teaching the course, the amount of autonomy the faculty member has regarding decisions related to the course or any other information they want to add,” Knackendoffel said.

Faculty have the choice of distributing their TEVALs during class in a paper format or online. Knackendoffel said the online option has several advantages, including allowing students time to reflect and write comments. The results can also be easily tabulated and compiled with comments in an electronic format and returned to the instructor after grades have been submitted.

The feedback is anonymous and faculty members don’t get the results until January, after grades have been submitted.

“With that being said, return rates are usually significantly lower when students are asked to fill out the online version,” Knackendoffel said. “I think students have good intentions of responding to the TEVAL online but it isn’t a priority.”

Abby Ewert, sophomore in biology, said she has always completed her professors’ TEVALs, but she hasn’t necessarily given the feedback form all of her attention.

“I know for me personally, my lack of effort in filling out TEVALs stems from the thought that my feedback doesn’t get taken into serious consideration,” Ewert said.

Noah Grant, senior in marketing, said the only time he has taken a TEVAL seriously is when he didn’t like his professor.

“I think TEVALs can be dangerous because since they’re anonymous, students can be 100 percent honest with how they feel about their professor and the course,” Grant said. “I think more students are likely to criticize than to give praise to their professors.”

Knackendoffel said many faculty members have expressed concerns about the increasing lack of civility in some comments students make in the course evaluations.

“You always take a deep breath before you open the results and hope that most of the feedback is good and that the negative feedback is constructive,” Knackendoffel said. “I think most faculty want honest, constructive feedback but it should be done in a civilized manner. I don’t think many students realize how hurtful their comments can be to faculty.”

Although students and faculty members may have mixed feelings regarding the productivity of TEVALs, departments such as the College of Education rely on TEVAL reports for yearly merit materials. Along with other materials, TEVAL results are also used to determine performance rankings and merit raises within the department.

“I always appreciate what students tell me about my teaching and my courses,” Knackendoffel said. “I read the feedback and try to make changes for the next semester after seeing the tabulated results and comments.”