The debate over whether students should be allowed to view instructor evaluations has existed since some current instructors were students themselves. Regardless, the issue is a hot one for those involved.
Student Government Association members planned to submit a proposal to the University Senate that, if approved, would allow students to access those evaluations. Under this proposal, students could view responses to the statements “overall, my instructor is effective” and “my teacher is actively helpful.”
Troy Ransdell, a student representative on the University Senate, said student access to evaluations would make learning between students and faculty more effective.
It is important to provide a vehicle that would enable students to learn more effectively. But this proposal assumes that all students have the same idea of what makes someone a helpful and/or effective instructor. In reality, no two students have the same criteria on what they think makes a teacher effective or helpful.
Students can’t accurately assess an instructor’s ability to teach based on the subjective opinion of a few students. In some cases, students may blast or praise an instructor on something they have no control over.
A student will more likely determine a teacher’s effectiveness on his or her fit to that student’s ideal learning technique or environment. Hence, it’s not important for students to know what other people think, but rather how professors and instructors teach.
Therefore, Western should make it mandatory for instructors to post information on TopNet that will explain to students how their classes are set up.
Information could include what content is covered in the course, how classroom time is spent, whether the course is discussion-based or lecture-based, what kind of daily assignments are given, what kind of tests are given and what books and materials are required for the class. At the very least, the information would include whether the class is discussion or lecture and how the tests are set up.
This type of information is objective, but it allows students to know whether they will be able to learn well in a given class. Someone who likes teachers to point everything out probably would not learn well in a discussion-based class. Someone who didn’t do well on standardized tests will probably not do very well in a class that has multiple-choice tests.
From a technical perspective, Western would save a lot of time and money. Many students often drop a class because they realize that they can’t afford the books or that they can’t handle the class load after the first day.
If students knew during registration what the class would be like, they would probably not sign up for that class. It would allow the students who really want to take the class to get in and prevent the university from adding extra needless class sections.
For faculty members, this is a more fair way for students to assess their teaching abilities. Most instructors likely have this information on hand, so posting this information would not be a problem.
Western administrators have stated that they wants students to be prepared for the working world. Well, in the working world, nobody would ever take a job without knowing what it will be like and whether it would be a good fit.
Likewise, students should not sign up for a class without knowing what to expect. Only the student, not the subjective opinion of other students, can determine who will help them learn effectively.
This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 9-member board of student editors.