Faculty reviewing changes to course evaluation forms


Faculty Council is continuing discussion on a mandate from a UT System task force to add five questions to course evaluation forms and may approve the changes at its next meeting in April.

The System Office of Academic Affairs established the Task Force on the Evaluation of Faculty Teaching in the spring of 2012 to assess the student and peer faculty evaluation process. The task force developed a list of five questions all institutions within the System must add to their evaluation forms.

Pedro Reyes, education professor and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, serves on the task force. Reyes said the members of the task force wanted to develop consistent questions for all institutions to use in their evaluations. 

“Teaching is really important to the whole System,” Reyes said. “When we accessed that data [from evaluation forms], there was a lot of diversity throughout the campuses … What we decided to do is ask some really great faculty members from across the System, and students as well, to come together and develop a way we could systematically approach this and gain more meaningful information about how students regard their teachers.” 

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said while these questions are mandated, institutions are allowed and encouraged to include other questions. 

In order to accommodate the new questions, Faculty Council’s Educational Policy Committee looked at the existing evaluation forms for questions that could be deleted. Mary Rose, associate sociology professor and chair of the committee, presented a report to Faculty Council at its meeting Monday and will present a revised report based on feedback from the assembly at its next meeting.

Rose said some of the System’s new questions were similar to existing questions in UT’s evaluation form, which the committee has proposed to remove. 

“I think one of their questions was worded exactly the same as one we had and others were different in wording, but you could argue they were similar in spirit to other questions we had,” Rose said. 

According to Rose, the content of the form is not altered frequently, despite requests from the UT community. 

“We got [requests] early [last] year, and we took it very seriously and spent a meeting discussing it and also just tried to figure it out,” Rose said. “When we priced that out, it was insanely expensive to do it, so having the System provide us with these mandating changes kind of gave us a nice opportunity to reevaluate the entire form.”

Although the mandated questions provided Rose with this opportunity, she said it was frustrating to have the System order changes to the form. 

“No one likes to be told what you have to do,” Rose said. “There is so much variability in what teaching looks like and what students want to say and reflect on and maybe the needs at UT Austin are different than at other campuses.”


System mandated additions to the course evaluation form:

All items will be judged based on a scale ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”

1. The instructor clearly defined and explained the course objectives and expectations. 

2. The instructor was prepared for each instructional activity. 

3. The instructor communicated information effectively. 

4. The instructor encouraged me to take an active role in my own learning.

5. The instructor was available to students either electronically or in person.