A richer semester with ~ Anne Garcia~

The Whole is Greater than
the Sum of the Parts

I have formally and informally considered the process of teacher evaluation on many occasions. (I headed a committee while a faculty at UM on the same subject)

I agree with the recommendations from a book I reviewed almost 20 years ago–ideally teaching evaluation would be based on several perspectives. In other words, I don’t agree with my colleagues who swear by the SOQ’s nor do I agree with the ones who oppose them strongly. (The latter group usually suggests that students are incapable of providing meaningful feedback due to (1) their youth and/or (2) their lack of understanding of the “gestalt” of a teacher’s role.) I, on the other hand, believe that student feedback can be very useful and meaningful—but only from those students who take it seriously and who can try to see the multiple tasks facing each teacher.

In general, student evaluations are easily influenced by a myriad of factors as articulated so well in the article, “The Hermeneutics of Teacher Evaluation” by Chris Beyers that was discussed by FPD at their recent meeting. Given the many errors inherent in a student-only system of evaluation, I believe that other methods should be used as well. For teachers to truly benefit from the evaluation process, it should consist of feedback from any or all of the following sources: (1) students, (2) peers, (3) supervisor, (4) teaching experts and/or (5) self-reflection via a Teaching Portfolio process.

I have heard that before I joined WCC, (prior to 2000?) there was an elaborate process at the end of each year to evaluate each faculty. I have heard rumors that it was very lengthy and a hassle. I can believe that. But apparently the pendulum swung the entire other direction to a period of NO self-evaluation of faculty–teaching or otherwise? And this has been in place for the 11  years I have worked here.

I am surprised that we could not reach a compromise where some self-reflection (as well as feedback from other faculty and/or supervisors) was required systematically, not only in regards to teaching but about other contributions (committee work etc.) to the college as well.

Given the comments and “anecdotal” evidence (pretty rich evidence at that) that Chris Beyers described in his article, it seems inappropriate to me to rely solely on the SOQs. He made the case that:
(1) Students are influenced (positively or negatively) by the comments they overhear while completing the forms
(2) Diligent students are “Hurried” by students who want to leave as soon as possible
(3) Emotional responses (positive or negative) can strongly influence their ability to objectively provide feedback… and several other examples in his article.

Admittedly some of these biases should be equally distributed across all faculty—although not all are biased.

All in all, I would strongly encourage us to adopt a more comprehensive and nuanced approach to the evaluation of faculty, in terms of teaching and service.

Anne Garcia
Full Time Faculty
Behavioral Sciences