The Importance of Instructor Evaluations


Near the end of each semester, we are subjected to the same ritual of instructor evaluations. What may seem to be an inconvenience to some is actually a critical component of a student’s rights; this is a direct avenue for us as students to evaluate professors on the effectiveness of their teaching. This may seem to be an inordinate task for students–can an undergraduate really evaluate the pedagogy of an educator with a doctoral degree? What makes evaluations even more daunting is the fact that they are an important factor in how professors are assessed overall. So how can we as students ensure that great professors and not-so-great professors receive appropriate scores?

One particular hindrance is found in the evaluation forms themselves. They are simply different categories that are quantitatively gauged. Often times, it is impossible to express your exact views on the professor using this methodology. And so it is absolutely imperative that you write down your express views on the professor using a blank sheet of paper. The fact that the written portion of the evaluation process is optional is absolutely mind boggling–a professor cannot simply be reduced down to various numerical values. We should support our quantitative evaluations with qualitative observations in regards to the professor’s demeanor, teaching style, organization, etc. Too often have I seen students complain about a professor, and then when evaluations come around, hand in their scantron within minutes. A failure to properly express your views on professors leaves only the numerical values you have selected to represent your own perceptions.

Another notable point is the fact that you should be unafraid in frankly assessing your professors. Throughout my entire experience here at Western, I have only encountered one professor (thankfully not a part of the English department) that was so abhorrent I believed they had no place teaching in a university. The rest of the students in the class also believed this to be the case, and yet this professor still continues to teach. While their position as a tenured professor means it is incredibly difficult for real action to take place, the fact that many students did not ensure that their evaluations reflected the quality of the professor did not help bring the professor under scrutiny from the department. If you strongly believe that a professor has no place teaching at this university, make sure that the numerical scores you give them reflect this. Our main source of agency when it comes to how professors are evaluated is rooted in these numerical scores; we should ensure that they are appropriately low or high when evaluating pedagogy. Average scores do nothing to let the university know that a professor is not up to our standards.

Finally, the most direct way to voice your concerns over a professor is to speak with the department chair and/or provost. If you believe that the professor has violated an ethical code, you should speak to the provost and department chair immediately. If you have concerns about a professor’s pedagogical approach, I would recommend going into their office and speaking with them about the subject matter. However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, or your concerns warrant immediate attention, it would be best to speak with the department chair. We should all remember that any hesitation we may feel in regards to engaging in these conversations should be overcome, as problems that are not addressed now will continue to exist and effect many other students.

We as students have the ability to voice our concerns and make sure the education that we are paying for meets our expectations and standards. None of us are here to pay thousands of dollars for a mediocre education, and we should hold ourselves and our professors to the highest of standards.