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Continued: Course ratings, long secret, may go public at University of Minnesota

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 14, 2014 - 11:16 AM

No teacher ratings

One big exception: Students would not be able to see teacher ratings, only the course ratings.

Prof. Will Durfee, who chairs the Faculty Senate leadership committee, said he knows that may disappoint many students. But according to university attorneys, the teacher evaluations are considered private data under state law, because they play a “significant role” in personnel decisions such as tenure and promotion.

Even so, Durfee said, he thinks the course ratings, based on hundreds of thousands of student evaluations, will be more useful than a handful of reviews on the Internet. “We can guarantee a much higher response rate.”

Nationally, the very idea of students rating professors has gotten some pushback. Last year, an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education compared it to online bullying.

“Teachers should evaluate the teaching skills of other teachers,” wrote Spurgeon Thompson, an English instructor at Fordham University. “Leaving it to students is almost absurd.”

Eva von Dassow, an associate professor of classical and Near Eastern studies at the U, says there’s always a risk that student reviews will be skewed. “The chances are that students who are doing poorly are likely to think the teacher’s doing poorly.”

But as a professor, developing a thick skin is part of the job, she said, and there seems to be little opposition among faculty members to the change.

For students, it’s a step in the right direction, says Ohren, a member of the student government. But even if the ratings are posted, he said, they won’t replace the time-tested practice of asking your friends.

“Word-of-mouth is always going to matter.”

 

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

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  • Professor Eva von Dassow showed images of clay tablets in a class on the Near East in her office.

  • Eva von Dassow, an associate professor of classical and Near Eastern studies, says there’s always a risk that reviews will be skewed.

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