Expert comes to University to help evaluate evaluations

Raoul Arreola suggested expanding evaluations to faculty members and students among other improvements.

by Jamie VanGeest

The University brought in some expert opinions Thursday to evaluate its own evaluation process.

The miniconference, which was at McNamara Alumni Center, was designed to provide a complete perspective and assessment on the measurement and evaluation of faculty members at the University.

Raoul Arreola has conducted workshops on faculty evaluation for the past 17 years at more than 500 colleges and universities around the world. For 35 years his research has focused on the measurement and evaluation of faculty performance.

“You can’t get better at something unless you evaluate how well you are doing,” said Robin Wright, the associate dean for faculty and academic affairs.

At the conference, attended by about 330 people, Arreola said a key component in a good faculty evaluation is the need to include more than just student-teacher evaluations. A good system includes evaluations from faculty members, superiors and students, he said.

Arreola said student evaluations shouldn’t be done online because the scores for those tend to be depressed. It’s best to do it in the classroom where the class was taken, he said.

He said teachers should not administer forms the day of a major examination or on a homework deadline. Evaluations shouldn’t be done a week before or after these times because it might lower students’ opinions of the professor, he said.

The evaluations should be administered at the beginning of a regular class, he said, and afterward the class should proceed as usual.

Comments should not play any role in a formal faculty evaluation system, Arreola said, because a few negative or positive comments could outweigh the opinions of other students from the class.

Finally, a specific, consistent script should be read to all students reassuring them that their grades will not be affected by filling out the form. Also, forcing students to fill out an evaluation will make them give the teacher a poorer evaluation.

Right now the University Senate is looking at ways to improve the system, said Connie Tzenis, an education specialist for the Center for Teaching and Learning Services.

“It is a very hotly debated topic for faculty and students,” Tzenis said.

Arreola said that on University evaluations, numbers for responses don’t have clear explanations and the wording of the questions doesn’t work. Arreola suggested that the questions be worded to measure students’ perceptions and reactions instead of asking them to evaluate teaching.