Student evaluations are not used to evaluate professor performance during pandemic

Email encouraging students to fill out a course evaluation survey.

Jessica Ames Reporter

As of last spring, student evaluations filled out at the end of each semester are only seen by instructors — not directors, chairs or deans.

A common way professors are evaluated for their success is through student evaluations. In a typical year, student evaluations have two purposes: developmental and evaluative.

A developmental purpose the evaluation serves is when a professor uses a new technique, they will receive feedback on if it was effective. This is still available to professors. 

The second purpose is for evaluating. For example, if a tenured faculty member is standing for reappointment, the evaluations in their personnel files are used by the chairs, directors and deans as part of the process of determining the effectiveness of the professor’s teaching. This is currently unavailable.

“It was thought that the faculty would be struggling to develop their skills teaching remotely and it would be an added layer of stress to have that information provided to their evaluators,” said Jennifer Marcinkiewicz, the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Even if instructors have successfully developed their skills during the pandemic, they’re not allowed to use their evaluations in their personnel files. 

“We did this so there is no assumption that a professor performed badly if they choose to not provide the evaluations,” said Deborah Smith, the former chair of the Kent State Faculty Senate.

Now, the Kent State faculty members who enrolled in workshops over the summer designed to help them adjust to remote learning lost a way to show the results. 

“Professors are being robbed of the chance to show how they’re really doing in the classroom,” said Annie Pietch, a senior graphic design major. 

But professors can conduct mid-semester surveys and use them in their files since they’re not an official part of student evaluations. Also, instructors still view the student’s feedback at the end of the semester and can adjust their techniques for the future. 

Likewise, even though the evaluations are not being sent to the chairs and directors, they’re still able to see student success metrics such as student grades and withdrawal rates. 

Regardless of the pandemic, students can report unacceptable behaviors through the academic complaint procedure. They’re able to have these complaints on file for deans and directors to review. Another way students can address these concerns is by reaching out to the deans and chairs directly. 

As for acknowledgement of success, Kent State offers students a way to promote their professors’ efforts by submitting a story to the featured faculty of the month page. They also plan to have a “shout out” section on the Kent State COVID-19 page, Smith said.

Jessica Ames is a teaching reporter. Contact her at [email protected].