Teacher rating taken seriously in California

Professor Laurence McMillin explored college-level evaluation at a few California colleges including the University of Southern California, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Harvey Mudd and Citrus Community Colleges.

Some generalizations:

Along with evaluation of teaching, there is also much evaluation of evaluations.

The merits of statistical questionnaires vs. individual student comments are constantly being debated.

Questions about teachers are criticized.

All, in various ways, said that the grading of a teacher is inexact, difficult, uncertain - and above all - interdisciplinary. Politics, law, math, psychology, sociology, ethics, even history and, of course, language - contribute to the complex.

Justice, it is argued, can come only from a multiplicity of perspectives.

One college sends questionnaires for the grading of present faculty to former students. Another institution interviewed expects the faculty members to prepare their own dossiers, which must include an essay on the teacher's philosophy of teaching.

At another institution, when a professor is being evaluated for promotion, he is invited to give names of professionals in his field whom he perceives to be hostile to him; that is, in a professional sense. These comments are weighed in the same scale with reports from previous students who are now themselves professors and patently supportive of the candidate.

And the vice-president for adacemic services at the community college says that ''teaching evaluation is his most important and time-consuming responsibility.''

All probationary faculty at his school are evaluated once a semester, and after two years of exemplary service are evaluated every two years.

Along with an evaluation by the vice-president and the department chairman, faculty members may choose to have further evaluation by one of three other techniques: by peers, by students, or a structured self-evaluation.

Some 99 percent choose the students.

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