Faculty evaluations to become public

Institutional News

Students will soon be able to view faculty evaluations of any Missouri college or university on each campus’ Web site.

The Missouri General Assembly passed Senate Bill 389 with an effective date of August ‘07, which requires all institutions of higher education to include faculty names, credentials and student ratings on their Web sites.

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed the bill in May of last year and is quoted on his office’s home page saying, “I applaud Senate members for taking this bold step to … introduce accountability measures … ”

“I don’t know if you have any more accountability,” said associate professor Kenneth Dagel. “We are still responsible to administration to achieve certain (student evaluation) numbers and if they do not believe we are doing a good job we probably won’t be here. That’s our accountability.”

The bill also requires institutions to list course schedules with the name of each instructor. Some campuses already comply with this part of the bill. The only thing that will be new is the faculty evaluation information. Students can use this new information to help select future classes based on fellow student’s approval ratings of instructors.

“Students don’t realize that instructors are not the same,” Dagel said. “They have to come up with different strategies for different professors. We talk about active learning; the students need to be actively involved.”

It is not clear what faculty evaluation information will be posted on the Web site. When our system is brought into compliance students may only find how many number three bubbles were filled in on the faculty evaluation sheet. This might tell you how many students thought the instructor was average.

The other end of the spectrum of possibilities is the tabulation of all the bubbles filled in each category along with any written comments from students.

“One of the things that is missing from the faculty evaluations is the GPA of the students doing the evaluation,” said professor Patrick McLear. “If you have a high GPA among students in a class you probably will have a higher evaluation.”
In some cases, the student evaluations are kept in personnel files. Sharing information that is held in instructor’s personnel files might be a violation of a professor’s employment agreement.

“There is little else to share in those files,” said Dagel. The only thing left that is not public knowledge is the annual written review generated by the department chair.

“If the integrity of teaching hasn’t already been undermined, this will do it,” McLear said.

Not everything about Senate bill 389 is controversial. Some of the other topics covered by the bill are increased funds for scholarships and provisions for tuition stabilization. The bill also enacts the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative.

The bills language also insist that the Web site include information about whether a professor or student teacher is instructing the course.

“That is a good thing,” said Dagel. “Students need to have that information.”

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