Kent State Faculty Senate look to make teaching evaluations more effective

Britni Williams

Faculty Senate is looking to make teaching evaluations more effective through a new commission headed by anthropology professor Owen Lovejoy.

Faculty Senate Chair Mack Hassler said that discussions between the president, provost and executive committee of Faculty Senate showed the need to create the Lovejoy Commission to assess current methods of evaluating professors.

In a background information packet given to Faculty Senate on Jan. 10, Lovejoy wrote, “It has become increasingly clear that our assessment of teaching performance is not nearly as objective, probing or systematic as the other primary character of evaluation — research and scholarship.”

Hassler said he appointed Lovejoy to be the chair of this commission. Because the commission was just formed this semester, there is no timeline for when to expect the change in evaluations.

Lovejoy said the current methods of evaluating teachers are used by college advisory committees to determine the future of professors. These evaluations are sometimes used to decide if a professor gets a promotion or tenure.

Lovejoy said he wants the committee to discuss if current methods are the fairest ways to evaluate professors.

Teaching performance is currently evaluated in two ways, which are the Student Survey of Instruction and Peer Reviews, according to the information packet Lovejoy presented to Faculty Senate.

The student survey is the form students fill out toward the end of the semester in class or online, and the reviews are provided by members of the professor’s department.

One flaw with the current Student Survey of Instruction, Lovejoy said, was sometimes the number of responses exceeded the number of students enrolled for a particular course. This comes from inconsistencies with filing when there are multiple sessions of a course.

Another flaw with the survey is that the current five-point scale is not “sufficiently sensitive,” Lovejoy said. He thinks the scale needs to be changed to seven or nine points to allow for more exact results.

Lovejoy said that the current student survey doesn’t “sufficiently encourage” written responses from students, which Lovejoy said are the most helpful to professors.

According to information from Lovejoy, there is no standard, uniform method to Peer Reviews, and they don’t allow for anonymity.

“The one thing I promise the commission will not do is attempt to reinvent the wheel,” Lovejoy said when he addressed the Faculty Senate on Jan. 10. “If there are no ways we can improve our current methods, then we will so state.”

Lovejoy said he plans to look at how other universities evaluate their professors and gather input from faculty at Kent State.

Hassler is hopeful this commission will be a success.

“Lovejoy’s a brilliant man and a leader of faculty,” Hassler said. “He’s got a strong commission and if they can come up with some answers that would be great. I’m hopeful that they will.”

Contact Britni Williams at [email protected].