Other Uses for Teaching Evaluations

The article by Ricki Lewis, "Teaching Evaluations: Widespread And Controversial" (The Scientist, 12[9]:12-13, April 27, 1998), hit some important points regarding the use of teaching evaluations. I suggest two other (uses of evaluations): Daily evaluations: If the purpose of teaching evaluations is to improve teaching, I recommend instituting daily evaluations of every lecture, rather than taking them when the semester or quarter is over. For the evaluations to have the greatest impact, the

Aug 17, 1998
Howard Lenhoff

The article by Ricki Lewis, "Teaching Evaluations: Widespread And Controversial" (The Scientist, 12[9]:12-13, April 27, 1998), hit some important points regarding the use of teaching evaluations. I suggest two other (uses of evaluations):

Daily evaluations: If the purpose of teaching evaluations is to improve teaching, I recommend instituting daily evaluations of every lecture, rather than taking them when the semester or quarter is over. For the evaluations to have the greatest impact, the improvements must be made during the time that it can help the students writing the evaluations. I do this and find the process simple and confidential. At the beginning of every class, I pass out 10 to 20 half-sheets of paper with a few questions, such as, "Did you find any parts of the lecture unclear?" or "Did I cover the material too slowly, too rapidly, just right?" Then I leave space for comments. Usually I get back half of the questionnaires, and invariably I find them quite helpful. I look them over, and at the beginning of the next lecture I answer any questions that appear to bother a number of students. I also try to rectify any teaching techniques that they find confusing.

Use of evaluations for promotion and tenure: If a department has developed a well- thought-out evaluation form to be used in the promotion and tenure process, then why not have federal granting agencies require university professors to submit the latest evaluations of their teaching performance with their grant proposals and renewal requests. The process would not make it more difficult for faculty members to apply for research grants. They would merely need to attach to their proposals the evaluations of their teaching performance that were submitted to their department as part of their most recent request for promotion or for a merit-based increase in salary. Such a simple modification of our granting procedure would serve broad notice that the nation's granting agencies and the taxpayers who make those grants possible have a clear goal. The country wants the research scholars at our universities to be deeply concerned with their teaching responsibilities, and, in so doing, to stimulate our youth to follow in their footsteps.

Howard M. Lenhoff
Dept. of Developmental and Cell Biology
University of California
Irvine, CA 92697-2310
hmlenhof@uci.edu