Finding value in TEVALs for professors, students

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At the end of every semester Kansas State students evaluate their professors and classes through the TEVAL system.

TEVALs are unique to K-State. According to Jana Fallin, director of the Teaching and Learning Center, the whole concept of student evaluation started at K-State in the early 1970s.

“It was students who really wanted to evaluate their courses,” Fallin said. “They would just show up and ask their professor ‘Hey, can we do this?’ and some would say yes and some would say no.”

TEVALs originally intended to provide a student’s impressions of the teaching effectiveness of a professor in a given class.

“The original intent of the TEVAL system was to help professors get better in their teaching,” Fallin said.

There are two different sides of the TEVAL: the students’ and the professors’. The student TEVAL gives students a chance to reflect on the class and how well they thought the professor taught the class.

Landon Lee, junior in finance, said he thinks the TEVAL can be helpful because it gives the professor a chance to get feedback and see what students think about them as a professor and what they thought about the class.

Although the professor side doesn’t affect the final scoring at the end, they can give their opinion on the class as well to say the class was too big, the facilities weren’t great or that everything went well. Their comments about the class may be seen by their department head.

John Floros, Dean of the College of Agriculture, and Don Boggs, associate dean for academic programs, both said if used properly by both students and faculty, TEVALs provide insight into what a teacher is doing well in the classroom and what can be improved upon.

“Hopefully, they provide a form of constructive feedback that leads to improved teaching and learning,” Floros said. “They are also used by department heads as part of the faculty’s annual evaluation, and play an important role in promotion and tenure evaluation and decisions.”

Amy Rosine, associate professor of music, said the challenge with negative responses or low ratings is that there are no comments to back up the rating, which makes it difficult for the professor to know what to improve.

“We need to know what would have been more helpful in order to address different learning styles,” Rosine said.

If there are constructive comments on the professor’s TEVAL, then some professors apply those comments and make changes for next semester’s class.

If TEVALs are done constructively, they can be very useful in improving classroom outcomes, Floros and Boggs said.

“We have seen many faculty make changes to their courses and teaching pedagogy based upon constructive feedback from teaching evaluations,” Boggs said.

Comments that students write should be helpful, Fallin said.

“That’s one thing I wish student would learn, how to comment on something,” Fallin said. “It can be, ‘I didn’t like this,’ without it being super critical or negative. If you could just step back and know why they did it but it didn’t work and if you can get comments like that, then it is tremendously helpful.”

The Teaching and Learning Center is currently working on a video for K-State students to help them with the process of filling out TEVALs in a way that will not only help the professors at K-State, but the student experience in their classes as well.

“We’re working on trying to help especially freshman students know what they are and why they’re important,” Fallin said. “Some people don’t like the idea of evaluation — that word — because students, especially freshmen … aren’t really to the point where they can evaluate a teacher, but they can give helpful input.”

Fallin also said she encourages students to leave their professor constructive comments.

“I used to tell my bunch that I do want comments and I don’t mind negative stuff because I’m trying to get better,” Fallin said. “But don’t forget the good, because there were some good things too, and I think they need to think like that. … You want to hear the big picture as a teacher.”

The best advice that Fallin gives to students when filling out TEVALs is to really think about it and don’t go too fast.

“Find some time where you can sit down and really try to evaluate and try to be honest,” Fallin said. “An honest statement is better, because I think if they could just fill it out really honestly, you can still say things you didn’t like and didn’t work for you without saying that this is the worst professor at K-State.”

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