Student Voices Need to Be Heard in Teacher Evaluations

To the Editor:

I agree with many of the points Dr. Stark makes related to the need for institutions to have a system in place for evaluating teaching effectiveness that incorporates a variety of measures, such as quality of course design, student products (e.g., creations, projects, papers), ratings by trained peers, teaching portfolios, and so forth (“How One Professor Is Trying to Paint a Richer Portrait of Effective Teaching,The Chronicle, June 16).

I would argue, however, that in order to get a complete picture of instruction, we must continue to insist that students’ voices be heard as they spend more time observing faculty than anyone. If we want meaningful feedback, we should not ask students to evaluate individual faculty characteristics, but instead ask for their insight into instructional aspects of the course. Students are certainly qualified to report what they observe happening in class, rendering judgments about how much they perceive they learned in the course, how well the course was delivered, and their desire to take the course.

All measures have their shortcomings. The solution is to base evaluation of teaching effectiveness on multiple measures collected across multiple occasions from multiple sources, including students.

Ken Ryalls
The IDEA Center
Manhattan, Kan.

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