Student evaluations as customer satisfaction surveys

By Terry Hébert, Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Are student evaluations the best way for professors/lecturers etc. to get helpful and critical feedback on their teaching skills? In my time at two universities, after being evaluated by a large number of students- what have I taken home from these evaluations? Frankly, not as much as the few times that I have been evaluated by my peers- which must be solicited and can be time consuming. Student evaluations feel more like customer satisfaction surveys- sure there are some helpful comments but mostly it is uncritical complaining or just as bad uncritical praise. Why do we do this if not to give students some way to demonstrate their satisfaction/dissatisfaction as paying “consumers” of education? On the other side, the university also seems very concerned with the amount of grant dollars we bring in as researchers- rather than with the research outputs themselves. There must be better metrics to critically and constructively evaluate teachers and academics. I would argue that a meaningful, peer-to-peer system which has mentorship as a goal rather than customer satisfaction or dollar values of grants would really help us new and established academics get better at our chosen professions. Who has the time to do this though? I don’t know the answer to that but in the coming age of MOOCs, it will be education consumers rather than producers who will have more to say about this then ever before. Let’s prepare ourselves to be the best- not just to say we’re the best.


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