What the Student Perception of Teaching evaluations are and why FAU wants you to take them.
February 1, 2018
Every semester you’re asked to fill out the Student Perception of Teaching survey. Yet, you aren’t told how FAU uses them.
From the evaluation’s history to why the university considers them important, we give a breakdown of everything SPOTs.
What is a SPOT evaluation?
Public universities have always needed insight into how university faculty members are performing in the classroom. Different schools have different names for these evaluations, but essentially all are surveys designed for students to gi ve feedback on their teachers’ performance.
Taking a look at the problems with SPOTs
End-of-the-semester course evaluations are supposed to reflect a teacher’s abilities, but often just report students’ personal biases
Teaching evaluations should give solid feedback from students to department heads on whether an instructor is worth continued employment — but that’s not always what happens.
From low response rates to gender, ethnicity, and age biases, teaching evaluations, like FAU’s Student Perception of Teaching survey, have a long way to go until they’re a concrete measurement of a teacher’s abilities.
Flawed from the start
On average, just 58 percent of FAU’s 30,000 students take the Student Perception of Teaching evaluations, said James Capp, assistant provost for Academic Operations and Planning. This is down from the 66 percent response rate previously seen with the original paper format. (See SPOTs FAQs for a brief history on the teaching evaluation.)
Is this FAU’s worst professor?
A tenured professor earning over six figures annually has the worst end-of-the-semester teaching evaluations. But we’re not so sure they’re entirely accurate
Engineering professor Dronnadula Reddy spent most of his career studying and teaching students about concrete, but the results of his Student Perception of Teaching evaluations are anything but that.
In spring 2017, Reddy taught a course called Ocean Structures, which teaches students how to build oil-drilling platforms and other structures offshore. All nine students in the class marked “poor” in response to SPOTs’ sixth question: “Rate your instructor’s overall teaching effectiveness in this course: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.”
This was the worst undergraduate end-of-the-semester evaluation from summer 2016 to summer 2017.
FAU’s best teachers … sort of
Teaching evaluations aren’t perfect, but here are SPOTs’ best teachers from each of the university’s seven undergraduate colleges
Relying on a numerical figure shouldn’t be a real way to measure a professor’s teaching abilities, said Richard Freishtat, teaching evaluations researcher and director of the University of California Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning.
But when determining promotions, the university looks at the average score to SPOTs’ sixth question — “Rate your instructor’s overall teaching effectiveness in this course: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.”
Looking at over 6,500 classes from summer 2016-17, we put together a list of SPOTs’ best undergraduate teachers from each college, based on those whose classes had the most “excellent” response rates.
College of Arts and Letters: Julie A. Ward
Julie A. Ward received a score of excellent from 90 percent of her spring 2017 Topics: Sculpture Studio class.
She attributed this to her flexible teaching styles.
Commentary: How I think FAU can improve their teaching evaluations
After studying them for a semester, special issue writer Joe Pye has a few suggestions
Right now, FAU isn’t getting the most out of its teaching evaluation.
And that’s not saying it can’t, it just needs to do a little leg work.
From what I’ve gathered from my reporting, the data I’ve uncovered, the research I’ve read through, and the experts and students I’ve spoken with, I’ve determined a few things that FAU should consider implementing to get the most out of its Student Perception of Teaching survey.
Publish the comments anonymously
Stop hiding what students are saying about their classes and give them more of a voice. After all, they’re the paying customer.