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Thursday, September 9, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 13

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Teacher evaluations available

By Audrey Warren
Senior Staff Writer 

As students scour class schedules each semester, many wonder which professors have the best reputations, which assign the most essays and which give the most A's. All of these would be deciding factors in selecting courses, if only the information were available.

But it is, though many students at UH are unaware of it. Most academic departments submit their teacher evaluations each semester to the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library, where they can be checked out at the Reserve Desk.

The evaluations represent teaching effectiveness results of instructors by use of frequency distributions. Results are grouped by department, semester and year, and show what percentage of students rated a particular instructor as "poor" or "excellent" on a scale of one to five.

The ratings questions ask students to rate instructors with respect to such criteria as how well they stimulate interest in the subject, how clearly they present course content and how effectively they use classroom time. Copies of the questions are enclosed with the evaluation results.

UH professors said they supported students' being able to access the evaluations.

"I think it's a great idea," said Raul Susmel, assistant finance professor. "Students should have the right to find out about their teachers."

Most colleges and departments at UH have students fill out evaluations at the end of each semester.

The evaluations are processed within each college, then copies are sent to departments, chairs and to the library, said Shirley Mate, admissions assistant at the College of Engineering.

Some colleges have begun taking evaluation accessibility a step further by posting the results, and student comments, on the Internet.

In most cases, both official Web sites backed by universities and unofficial sites compiled by students are accessible to the general public, whereas evaluations traditionally have been viewed by professors and administrators alone to give insight into student opinion.

Some professors at schools that make their evaluations so accessible fear evaluations from disgruntled students may have an adverse effect on enrollment in the course, or may misrepresent good teachers targeted by a few bad students with a personal agenda against an instructor.

"That's a risk that you take when you have any kind of poll," said Dave Shattuck, associate professor at UH's College of Engineering, "although here at UH, we have students who do a good job of evaluating instructors."

Official sites like the one at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., created by the GMU provost's office, provide numerical ratings of professors' grading fairness, class motivation techniques and preparation ability.

UH does not have an official Web site for posting evaluations, but professors said they thought having the evaluations available at the library was sufficient.

"I think it's important to be an informed consumer. If (students) have a choice between teachers, it's within their rights to see (the evaluations)," said Dennis Bozeman, an assistant professor at the College of Business Administration.

Sources said any University-sponsored Web sites that posted evaluations would have to be developed by individual departments or colleges, and none are in the works.

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