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Professors' turn to receive grades on performance

Nov. 11, 2004

By KATE MCCLENDON and LAUREN SLUSHER, reporter and assistant city editor

Vanessa Yosten, a Sulphur Springs junior, didn't know what she was getting into when she signed up for a class in the English department. She didn't know of any way to find out about the course or professor, and after the class started, she didn't feel she saw eye to eye with him.

A committee made up of six faculty members, six staff members and two students is working to create a central resource or objective voice to inform students about professors and courses, according to the committee's proposal.

When finalized, the faculty evaluation will allow students to grade a teacher based on their teaching style and availability.

"We're interested in matching a student's learning style with a teacher's teaching style," Dr. Benjamin Kelley, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science and committee chairman, said.

In spring 2005, 33 classes will take evaluation "pilot tests." Half of the classes will be given tests on paper, the other half will be asked to voluntarily fill out an online evaluation. After receiving the information, the committee will review which method was the most successful and then use the results to design the final evaluation.

Nine new questions will be placed on the back of the existing evaluation sheets given to students toward the end of the semester. These questions also will be answered by marking choices ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Once the answers are compiled, anyone with a Baylor ID will be able to access the information online where course descriptions are listed.

"It'd be way easier for registration," Bisade Karunwi, a Nigeria sophomore, said.

"Then again, it could be kind of hard for professors. You'd have one favorite in the department and one no one wants to take," said Karunwi. Other methods of reading professor feedback are available, such as BUbooks.com, but Kelley said he feels that since the new evaluation is associated with Baylor, there will be a good response and an honorable intent.

"Internet sites are not always aimed at learning," Kelley said. "This is aimed at enhancing academic pursuits, not bad-mouthing a professor,"

Students also may decide on a professor simply by hearing what their friends say about him, according to Matt Trumbo, a Loveland, Colo., graduate student and committee member. "We're trying to combat word-of-mouth information."

Evaluation questions and results will be geared toward allowing a student to match up their learning style with a professors method of teaching. The most common learning styles are visual, auditory and tactile-kinesthetic. Visual learners may stop listening in class or become easily distracted by movement. Auditory learners prefer verbal instructions and enjoy listening. Tactile-kinesthetic learners are those who learn best by doing an activity and getting hands-on experience.

"I think it would help a lot of students going into classes to learn how teachers teach and how to prepare for class," Phillip Hare, a Houston freshman, said.

"The professors will be held to some sort of standard because they're being evaluated," said Hare. The original idea began in 1991 when President Herbert Reynolds wanted to create a committee to provide a way for students to evaluate courses, faculty, staff and administrators. Other schools, such as Texas A&M and Texas Tech, have programs to assess professors and enhance a student's experience in class.

They have found it to be very useful, according to Big 12 universities research by the committee.

A Student Congress committee has been working on the idea since 2002, and expects the "pilot tests" to be very beneficial in finalizing the program.

"We hope to be ready by 2006," Kelley said.