College and University Blog

Professor Evaluations: Your Opportunity to Rate Your Professor

At the end of the semester, you may be asked to fill out an instructor evaluation form. This gives you a chance to rate your professor. Usually you will be asked to complete a list of bubble-sheet questions. They will ask you questions like “On a scale from 1 to 7, with 7 being the highest, how enthusiastic was your instructor about the topic?” You will also be asked to answer some questions with a longer, written response.

Take these evaluations seriously. Your opinion does matter. Evaluations are used to determine several things. It is a tool used for job performance evaluations. Good evaluations can help a professor receive raises, awards, and promotions. If your professor is not yet tenured, they will need consistently good evaluations to get tenure. A professor usually won’t be fired for a bad evaluation, but they will be expected to address weak areas and show improvement.

Another use of evaluations is to get feedback about the class. They help professors identify problems and indicate possible ways to fix them. The bubble-sheet answers are helpful, but professors really value written feedback. If you are interested in helping out the professor, the department, and future students, take the time to leave constructive feedback. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be specific. The more specific you are about what you liked and didn’t like, the more helpful your feedback will be. Instead of writing, “I hated the readings”, write “the text was confusing and poorly organized”.
  • Offer suggestions. Tell your professor specifically how to change something. Instead of writing, “The power point slides were not helpful”, write “The power point slides would be more useful if they contained less information on each slide and had a bigger font”.
  • Explain what you liked about the class. Instructors like to hear that you liked their class. Try to be specific about what you liked, so the professor can continue doing these things.
  • Don’t criticize things your instructor can’t control. It is not helpful to complain that the class is scheduled too early in the morning, that the classroom is cold, or that the DVD player didn’t work. Your professor probably has no control over these issues.
  • Be nice. It can be extremely hurtful to receive nasty comments. Honesty is essential, but present it nicely. Evaluations can be a good form of revenge if you dislike the teacher. But, do you really want to be that person? This is a professional evaluation – leave your petty, immature revenge fantasies out of it.
  • Be appropriate. Do not comment on physical appearance or grooming. These issues have little to do with a professor’s ability to teach the class. Do not compliment your professor on their attractiveness or make lewd comments. It is disrespectful and can make an instructor feel uncomfortable.
  • Thank your instructor for a great classroom experience. If you enjoyed the class, thank your professor. It is one of the nicest things you can do.

A relatively new way to learn about your professors is through on-line teacher evaluation web sites. These sites are usually anonymous. They are available to anyone with internet access. Unfortunately, anyone can post an opinion, even someone who has never taken the class.

Is this use of technology helpful to the education process? These sites do provide students with information about their professors. Students may also be more comfortable leaving information on a website rather than in class, where a professor might be able to identify their handwriting. On the other hand, reliability of the information may be a problem. Students who leave feedback for a professor may do so because they either love or hate a professor. This may skew results. While most feedback is well-written and useful, some students use these sites as an anonymous way to flame a professor.

Imagine there was a web site for student evaluations. Professors would be allowed to leave nasty, anonymous reviews about problem students. It makes you a little nervous, doesn’t it? Professors feel the same way.

Should students use teacher evaluation web sites? By all means, take advantage of them. Keep in mind though that they’re only one source of information and may not be the most reliable source. If you are going to leave feedback, be constructive and honest. Once again, this is not the time to satisfy your revenge fantasies.