BYU students across campus evaluate their professors through an online student rating system at the end of each semester. Some students fill out the ratings just for the extra credit, but others recognize that providing feedback serves a greater purpose.
“I think that (submitting student ratings) is important for future students to get what’s best for them,” said BYU student Taylor Dall.
Though 60-80% of BYU students fill out the ratings each semester, some students may have only a vague idea of what happens to these ratings after they hit submit.
For example, students often seem to be addressing top-level administrators in their ratings, said Dr. Laura Bridgewater, associate academic vice president for faculty development. In reality, the ratings go directly to the professors, who review them before classes start again.
“I would say the vast majority of faculty members are very conscientious and proactive about being good teachers because they want to bless the lives of students,” said Faculty Center Director Craig Hart. “When we hire faculty, we look for faculty who have that mindset.”
Some students said they felt their professors cared a lot about their students’ feedback.
“A lot of the teachers that I’ve had have talked about student ratings in the past and how they’ve made changes because of it,” student Ashlyn Taylor said.
Bridgewater and Hart explained that department chairs also review their professors’ student ratings annually. Larger reviews happen during the professors’ third and sixth years of teaching.
Student ratings are only one part of the rigorous review process professors go through. Professors are also evaluated by their peers and encouraged to self-evaluate and document their progress.
“Faculty who take student comments seriously and work hard to overcome deficiencies but also continue to build on the strengths that the students identify are typically more successful when they are reviewed for continuing faculty status,” Hart said.
As student ratings play a quintessential role in faculty improvement, Bridgewater and Hart offered some suggestions for students to make their ratings more helpful and effective.
First, know who you’re addressing.
“Recognize that you’re talking to the professor and give the feedback that is going to most help the next people to take that class,” Bridgewater said, noting some students seem to think their ratings go to higher-up administrators, such as President Worthen.
Second, don’t just criticize — give positive feedback too. Hart encouraged students to mention specific things they liked about a class so their professor knows to continue those things in the future.
Third, keep feedback relevant. Commentary on a professor’s dress or appearance is unhelpful and unnecessary.