The Evaluations Debacle

I’m beyond annoyed, people. Here I was, posting cute pictures of food and enjoying my first free day this semester. And then I received a colleague’s email about a new round of problems with our student evaluations.

Initially, we had the kind of evaluations where students were asked questions and expected to provide actual responses. In their own sentences or even paragraphs. Imagine that, students writing paragraphs after taking courses in the Humanities. We’d ask them what they liked about a course, what they didn’t like, what they thought could be done to improve it, etc. The responses were fun to read, and I even posted excerpts from them here on the blog. Every batch of evaluations allowed me to hear my students’ voices, see what they had to say about my teaching, get feedback. This was both useful and inspiring.

Then, some. . . person in the . . . administration (dots stand for a string of expletives in a variety of languages) decided that the evaluations have to be quantifiable because, otherwise, you have no idea how to interpret them during tenure review. I have no idea what’s so hard about interpreting “Prof. Clarissa is the best teacher ever. I adore her and will recommend her fantastic course to everybody!!!”, but we all know that the administrators are not particularly smart. So maybe reading this kind of responses is, indeed, too intellectually challenging for them.

So now, instead of actual statements from my students, I get a bunch of Scantron sheets. I don’t even look at them because the kind of feedback that tells me I got 4.86 out of 5 is useless to me. Besides, the system takes into account students who weren’t in class as if they were there and gave you zeros for everything. So if there is even one student who was absent on the evaluation day, your ranking drops.

But this isn’t all. Apparently, there has been a problem with the Scantron sheets. Or the person interpreting the sheets got confused. Or the students got confused. Or the makers of the questionnaire did. I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is that in several sections of the Scantron sheet 1 stands for excellent and 5 for poor, while in other sections it’s the opposite. So now we are all ranked really low because the system processed our high rankings as abysmally low. And we will now have to offer long and convoluted explanations to the Personnel committee during our tenure reviews for why our teaching sucked so much in the past year.

What the flying fuck, people? Until when will we keep allowing these brainless fucks of administrators to get between us and our students because these extremely highly paid jerks are too stupid to read a few sentences?

In case nobody has noticed, I’m very angry right now.

13 thoughts on “The Evaluations Debacle

  1. Ugh… that sucks. We have evaluations with a quantifiable part, and then space for students to write (some do, some don’t). Occasionally, you do get the student that you realize made the mistake and gave you bad numbers when the evaluation is very good. But from what you are saying, the debacle has happened to everybody, so it shouldn’t be hard to explain in a few years. And many professors are going to raise a stink out of this one.

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  2. My University use Scantrons AND real text commentaries!

    Scantrons have this advantage, they tend to not over-apperciate teachers because, in text evaluations, bad real comments about teachers are too uncommon.

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  3. effing assessment ruins everything. I’m at the point where I just ask the students what books and assignments they liked and didn’t like, since the numerical indicators are totally useless

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  4. Last week I got number 8,123,579 of these performance surveys. Since all state employees will get the same survey, we will have an “n” somewhat over 100,000. That will obviously make it a “very valid” survey??? 😦 Quantifiable yes, valid no. Garbage in…garbage out.

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    1. Absolutely brilliant!!! I first thought it was a chapter from the doctoral dissertation of a colleague of mine. He gave it to me once, and it sounded exactly like this.

      I highly recommend everybody follow David’s link.

      Thank you, David! You just put me back in a good mood after my evaluation-related suffering. 🙂

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  5. I am not surprised.

    When you have a mixed evaluation system (like the one we have where I work) students tend to write short comments like “very good teacher” and “Professor x knows a lot,” thinking that the quantifiable part says it all. I wonder if our students’ comments would be longer if we get rid of quantifiable evaluations.

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  6. Ugh!

    (Scantrons? Do they really still use Scantrons? Wow. That’s what we used when I was in college in…er…a long time ago.

    Haven’t they heard of SurveyMonkey?)

    Yet another case for qualitative analysis and coding. What a crock. Sigh.
    –J

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    1. And the worst thing about this whole Scantron debacle is who is paying for the Scantron sheets and their processing. You’d think it’s the administration that foisted them upon us, right? Not so. We are paying for them with the departmental money instead of using it to send professors to conferences. Makes a whole lot of sense.

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  7. Hey I was wondering if anyone could tell me which universities are the best (anywhere) for creative writing? I’m not interested in any universities in ontario because they dont offer the type of courses I want. I was also wondering if maybe there are schools specifically for creative writing? Please help me out, I have to apply in Dec, and I have no idea where I’m going, I just know that I want to write, because writing is my life, and I cant see myself doing anything else. Thanks..

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