At the end of each semester the students fill out evaluation forms for each class. These forms ask questions about the class overall, the texts and other materials, relevance of the coursework, and of course there are a number of questions about the instructor. That’s me. I get hammered most on availability. This semester I have four classes with 167 students in one, 69 in another, 52 in a third and 20 in the fourth. I have no T.A. So, I’m not available as often as everyone would like, or even as often as I would like… but there it is.
I’m ambivalent about these things, I don’t mind saying. I think it essential for the students to have a feedback mechanism. It’s nice and valuable to get their opinions. On the other hand, these things are used to some degree in our job evaluations with the Director and Dean of the department. The potential for students getting back at their professors for bad grades, tough love and other slights real or perceived is an issue with a number of professors I talk to.
The focus perhaps has shifted from the historical mentoring relationship between professor and student (the relationship between Aloysius and Josephus in Gradus Ad Parnassum seems a relic from a different epoch) to one where the student is a customer and the education a product, the professor the focal point for good customer service. Student evaluations are here to stay though, and I do value them. It’s a nice reminder that I am here for them, at their service. I consider it a sacred relationship and a humbling one. I have an opportunity to make a big difference in their lives, to change the way they see the world, think about things, relate to others, create. I am happy to see if I am doing my job.
I don’t believe the professor should be on a pedestal imparting pearls of wisdom down to the underlings and many professors clearly have Texas-sized egos. I also think that teaching to get good evaluations does a disservice to the students. But I digress. Here are two comments on the forms I particularly enjoyed.
Question: Did the Instructor have any weak points? If yes, please explain.
Reply: “Could be a little abrasive at times.”
Perhaps she (just guessing from the handwriting) has a point. I do tell the students in each class at the beginning of the semester that I can be vulgar, irreverent, that I have a point of view, and that for the price of their tuition, they are entitled to my opinion and they shall have it! I tell them that if any of that offends any of their sensibilities that they should consider dropping the course. This is music, the music industry, art, after all!
Then there’s this one, written across the entire page, sideways, not directly answering any one question in particular.
Ojo for president in 2012. But seriously, he could win the Republican bid because they all suck.