California Lutheran University offers students the chance to complete course evaluations, rating their experience in their courses and assessing their professors’ performance. In recent years, faculty have seen a decrease in the number of complete course evaluations, especially during virtual learning.
Chair of the Political Science Department, Haco Hoang said she previously served on the Appointment, Rank and Tenure (ART) committee for a few years. The committee evaluates professors’ performance and considers their eligibility for tenure and promotions.
Hoang said the committee uses students’ course evaluations as a tool in these decisions.
“I try to see evaluations as feedback,” Hoang said in a Zoom interview. “From that feedback, [I ask] are there patterns of feedback that I can use to give to a faculty member?”
She said the response and overall return rate of students completing the evaluations every semester is low, making it harder for the ART to make decisions. Hoang said the evaluations are meant to be constructive.
“Whatever feedback we get, we want to be able to use in a way that’s going to improve our teaching and delivery of teaching,” Hoang said.
Associate Provost for Educational Effectiveness Taiwo Ande said it’s important that students begin with going directly to their professors to ask for help or discuss concerns.
“Don’t feel like if you have little issues along the way, you have to wait until the end of the year to push everything out through the evaluations,” Ande said in a Zoom interview.
By the time students fill out course evaluations, Ande said it is too late for the professor to make changes in the classroom for that semester.
Course evaluations are not the only thing that play a role in professors’ performance and future at Cal Lutheran.
According to Ande, “when many institutions find a negative trend among the faculty, they typically try to figure out why there is such a trend and then put in a support system to make sure the negative trend is corrected.”
Students react differently to professors’ varying teaching styles. Ande said course evaluations are meant to be an additional process that guides faculty to be the best they can be for students.
Cal Lutheran senior and former Digital Content Manager for The Echo, Rosie Baker, said in a Zoom interview that there should be more than just course evaluations for students when they have concerns about a professor.
“Even if we take time to fill out the course evaluation, we don’t know if the professor looks at it,” Baker said.
Baker and Ande both said there need to be higher levels of communication among the students and faculty when it comes to professors’ performance.
“I really hope that professors look at them [evaluations] and read them, and take in what the issue is,” Baker said.
Baker said students can be scared to directly approach professors because they don’t want their professors to dislike them.
She said when she has had bad experiences with a professor, she was interested to know what other students in the class thought.
“There needs to be a bridge between the professor and students,” Baker said.