Course evaluations

Nathan Zoschke

How students impact instructor salaries

Nathan Zoschke Asst. Production Manager/Copy Editor

At the end of each semester, UMKC students find themselves bubbling in orange Scantron forms known as course evaluations,

Such forms are used by the individual colleges to asses faculty performance.

Arts and Sciences (A&S) Assistant Dean Tom Sandreczki said each department in A&S has a formula it uses to factor course evaluations into overall faculty performance reviews.

“We base pay on a performance basis, and [evaluations] can affect pay increases,” Sandreczki said. “If a particular faculty member consistently gets low scores, then there could be a problem, and the department should look into it and see if there is [a problem]. Students comments are a huge benefit because let the department chair know what the issues are that they have.”

The average course evaluation score for all A&S faculty in fall 2010 was 4.40.

To get this number, Sandreczki said he averages scores from the various A&S departments, which create an average of individual instructors’ scores.

To avoid skewed results, evaluation forms are only given in medium-large size classes. Sandreczki said this is also done to protect students’ confidentiality.

In addition, course evaluations are not given in graduate thesis, directed studies or seminar classes.

Sandreczki said he assumes the student response from the course evaluations reflects the classroom attendance on the day they were handed out.

Because of this, Sandreczki said, overall scores have been consistent semester-to-semester.

The exception was in fall 2009 when course evaluations were conducted online. Student participation was a mere 26 percent.

“Students get inundated with this stuff and it’s just a hassle for them to go in [online] and do it,” Sandreczki said.

The advantage of online evaluations is that they make data collection easier for the administration, and for that reason, the idea of putting A&S course evaluations back online has been considered.

Sandreczki said A&S may use online evaluations again next fall. However, changes would have to be made, namely to increase student participation.

“[Participation in the online surveys] won’t be mandatory in the sense that it won’t prevent you from getting your grades,” Sandreczki said. “We could delay grades slightly, and students are eager to get their grades. In reality, we would probably end up delaying them a couple days if they don’t take the survey.”

Student opinions on the use of course evaluations are mixed.

“A professor is going to continue to teach in the way that they see fit no matter how the course evaluations turn out,” Amanda Osborne, a junior business major, said. “I believe this is so because they chalk the opinions of students up to the possibility of not getting a passing grade or a dislike of the professor.”

Jack Tan Pei Song, a business major, said he believes it is important to obtain feedback on instructor performance.

“I think it a very important tool for the administration as it is one of the major tool to evaluate faculty based on students’ feedback,” Song said. “I would say that generally students provide genuine responses, but most of them have a lack of knowledge of the uses and function of the course evaluation forms.”

Song said he would like to see mandatory online course evaluations.

“They’re more environmental friendly and easier to tabulate and collect responses,” Song said. “They would be flexible for students to do at whatever time works best.”

Marvi Memon, a freshman chemistry major, agrees course evaluations are a useful tool, but would prefer to keep the Scantron forms, which she believes are less of a hassle for students.

Bradley Hoffman, a sophomore English major, expressed frustration at student ignorance of how course evaluations are used.

“The majority of students are likely unaware what major decisions these course evaluations can and have been used to make by the dean,” Hoffman said. “They are basically capable of substituting the evaluations as the decision maker thereby separating themselves from the situation and making it a totally reasonable and seemingly genuine and fair way for the deans to say, ‘We didn’t make the decisions, the students did.’”

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