Staff Editorial: Rating our professors

With fall classes less than a month from being over, everyone is already busy signing up for next semester’s courses.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had known what you were getting into for this semester in that one class you hate? Or if you could see what you’re signing up for this spring?

Each semester, students fill out both paper and online course evaluations, but every semester, students depend on unreliable sites like RateMyProfessors.com for information about classes and professors. Considering that GW already collects data on this, it seems questionable that students should have to go anywhere else.

The University’s current course evaluation system is outdated and should be re-evaluated and revamped.

The registration process should be directly linked to the results of the feedback, and the information should be presented in a systemized and quantitative form for student access.

The evaluations should be moved entirely online. This would provide more efficient data collection, considering the connected nature of today’s students – not to mention that it would help sustainability goals.

The system is currently ineffective due to low response rates. A carrot-and-stick initiative could increase participation. Initially, students should be offered material incentives to fill out the forms, as the University usually does with surveys. But if incentives fail to produce enough response, the evaluations should be made mandatory through transcript holds. Students who do not fill out the forms will not be able to access end-of-semester grades. If students do not provide feedback for their peers to view, the system will not work.

The feedback forms should be standardized across the University, and the data converted into easy-to-understand ratings, similar to RateMyProfessors.com but more reliable because they would come from the actual evaluations.

An effective course evaluation system would be a tremendous service to students and to academics at GW. Students being able to view comprehensive ratings will hold professors accountable, and students will take the evaluations more seriously if they know they can use others’ feedback for their own registration purposes.

It is not a stretch to imagine that when students go on the GWeb info system to register, the University could place the professor’s overall number rating from the previous semester next to the course. Students could also see how often the professor has taught that course and whether the course has been offered before.

Peer advisers currently are supposed to fill this role by telling other students what professors to take and when, or why to avoid certain classes. Though they provide a valuable service, they can only give so much advice because they are limited in the scope of what they know. Qualitative data and a collection of peer reviews would provide better information.

The Student Association published a book of student class feedback for over 50 years. The book was discontinued in recent years, but there is no reason the University cannot create a course evaluation ratings system and database for the 21st century.

The bottom line is that it might help you avoid that crotchety professor so that you can actually take courses you will enjoy. Isn’t that worth the effort from each of us?

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