The Santa Clara
April 18, 2019
At the end of every quarter, professors assign grades to their students and in turn, students evaluate their professors. This process seems fair. However, there is an inconsistency between the care professors put into assessing their students and how students tend to evaluate their professors.
Additionally, there is a large discrepancy between what these reviews consider: professors’ grades reflect how well a student did in that course, but evaluations often show how much students like the professor rather than what they thought about the teaching quality. This is not only unequal but also extremely unfair to the professors, as these evaluations are used as a measure of their teaching quality in the promotion and raise processes.
Students often breeze through evaluations, and frequently, due to the confidential nature of the forms, harshly criticize professors they did not like or from whom they received undesired grades.
The professors are accountable for the grades they assign and are aware of the stakes and consequences surrounding students’ grades and GPAs. The students, on the other hand, are completely unaccountable for what they write and are largely oblivious to the weight these evaluations carry toward the potential contracts and raises of professors who do not have tenure.
While there is value in students giving their professors feedback, it is wrong to let emotion influence these evaluations. If roles were reversed and professors assigned grades based on emotions and personal feelings, the system would be entirely unfair. While student evaluations of professors may not seem that significant, they are extremely important in the university’s process of evaluating teaching quality. Students should employ the same level of maturity as their professors do when grading.
A political science professor, Peter Minowitz, said that student feedback from these evaluations is often “feared.” He said, “an ongoing challenge for faculty teaching difficult material is to help students ‘reach a clear understanding of key concepts.’ As a rule, Santa Clara’s poli-sci professors avoid the ‘Politics for Dummies’ approach.”
By taking on difficult course content, assigning creative and challenging essays and holding students to high standards of writing and participation, professors who challenge their students can fear being “trolled,” as Minowitz put it.
When students assess their professors in an unnecessarily harsh fashion, many are not stopping to consider the effort that professor may have put into planning, organizing, teaching and grading for his or her course.
A study done by Michele Pellizzari, an economics professor at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, came to the conclusion that professor evaluations measure, motivate and reward worse teaching. His study found that teachers who scored lower on their evaluations actually did a better job at preparing students for future courses.
“It’s not an evil system, but I don’t think we should attribute the meaning or value to it that we do,” said communication professor Charlotta Kratz. “Students have a right to say what they want on the evaluations because that is how they feel but it’s not a measure of teaching quality.”
As Plato said, “a nation will prosper to the degree that it honors it’s teachers.” It is time that Santa Clara students stop letting personal feelings about teachers and grades affect the standing of hard-working professors. We must remind students that professors are more than the grades they give.
Professors are devoting their lives to educating young minds. The students should not thank them with spiteful reviews. Instead, students should evaluate their professors thoughtfully, thoroughly and with a level head to ensure Santa Clara has the best possible professors. This is not only in the interest of the professors, but the students as well. Start evaluating based on teaching ability and course content instead of personal feelings and vendettas, and the entire Santa Clara community will prosper.
Sahale Greenwood is a sophomore political science and communication major.