The point(lessness) of student evaluation of teachers in UPOU

I’d been going back and forth as to whether or not I should, or should even bother writing about this. It’s definitely not a new issue. But it does continue to bother us at UPOU on a regular basis. Then there is this thing about confidentiality which may or may not apply (I’ve never actually asked nor would I care to, at this stage). But here we go.

Student Evaluation of Teachers (SET) — if you’re a UP student, you have already had filled that survey form to assess the performance of your prof on all your courses. You’ve become so used to it that answering it has become second nature to you. If not, you will.

Unless you are a UPOU student, of course.

The problem in UPOU is that there is no procedure that will ensure that students will answer the evaluation sheets, like in other campuses. Neither is there any policy that will deter students from ignoring the call for evaluation. That leaves the university putting faith on the proactiveness of students…

LOL… ???

With confidentiality potentially becoming an issue, I’ll stick with only one set of data — mine.

From 2010 to 2014, I earned a SET average of 2.68. Breaking this down is going to be a little complicated, but I’ll do my best here by showing the actual sheet forwarded to me. I hope you’ll be able to follow.

SET_LibreroAFD

 

Scores seem straightforward enough. However, there is one important fact which the spreadsheet does not account for. It doesn’t say how many students actually evaluated me. I wish I still had all the numbers as proof, but I don’t. You’re just gonna have to trust that I’m being honest about it. As far as I can tell, the number of respondents exceeded ten only once here — for LVM 202 FS 2012-2013. Now, with the exception of maybe CMSC G in SS 2011-2012, when I only had three students, I typically have at least a few dozen students in a class. That LVM 202 class had 70 students, of which 17 evaluated me. I know because the Faculty of Management and Development Studies gave me the actual detailed results for both LVM 202 classes indicated here (in the second class, there were 6 out 34 respondents). In other classes, I’d typically get between 1-4 respondents. Another noteworthy fact here is that LVM 202 is the only course in that list which is taken by new students.  The rest are taken by students midway through or at the end of their residency.

Seventeen out of seventy was the best the SET could do for me — a response rate of less than 25%. In any other campus that would be unacceptable. But it would be the most normalized score I would ever get. Is it a coincidence that it is the also the highest rating in the list? I don’t know, really.

Now, make no mistake — I have never claimed to be the best teacher anywhere. But I do try to be good. But I have a style that not everybody would take well. No method does. That is why there will always be people who will not regard me or my methods kindly.

From what I have observed, I can surmise that students are more likely to evaluate teachers if a) they are new and are still enthusiastic towards this activity, and b) they have an axe to grind and the SET is a great opportunity for retribution, so to speak.

I admit that I felt hurt the first time I saw these scores last year. It was a big issue, not just for me, but for nearly everyone at UPOU. I don’t think anybody was spared. Do we deserve it? I can only speak for myself, but what I will say is that the only way I’m going to accept such low scores is if they are representative of the majority. If that’s what most of my students think, then so be it. That would also be the time when I say to myself that I really am not good at this and step away from teaching.

I didn’t mind the detractors by themselves. Like I said, there will always be those people who will not appreciate what I do and will make sure the university knows about it. What bugged me a little was that those who do like what I do couldn’t be bothered to evaluate me. But you know what? That was last year.

I saw the above sheet again the other day. And I was like, yeah, whatever… There is, however, a bigger questions to be answered.

Does this even matter?

I really can’t prove it, but I have this feeling that there are foolish students out there who think it doesn’t. So to address anyone who think as much, I’ll tell you why it does.

I started believing it served a purpose back when one of my profs in grad school was being reprimanded. The UPLB administration dug up his evaluation scores and used it against him, even though they were practically cherry picking. He was a highly regarded teacher who had few detractors. Unfortunately, it was those detractors who were passionate enough to detail their displeasure through additional comments. The admin made full use of those and played a small, but significant part in my prof’s departure.

SET scores are also mainstays in our university portfolios. I mean not the one that we would put out in public, but the one that is the basis of our tenure and our advancement. Higher scores earn us more points, which we need to accumulate before being promoted.

Perhaps its most important purpose as far as students are concerned is that it is the basis for the officials in determining what to do with us. Even though the indicator is a number, the SET is actually what keeps our portfolio and performance from being just a numbers game. Students’ feedback qualifies the teaching load we take every term.

Given a sufficient sample size, there are few things as indicative of a faculty’s performance in teaching than the SET. Unfortunately, we never have that benefit at UPOU.

We have now found ourselves in a conundrum. With such gross under-representation in the SET, UPOU has no choice but to stop respecting it as an assessment tool for faculty. That will only change if students stop taking it for granted and start being more proactive in its accomplishment. But since they generally don’t think it’s important in the first place (and is actually somewhat true now), it’s not going to happen.

There is another solution — find a way to make SETs mandatory and properly enforce it. But that is something I will leave to the people in power to figure out. I stopped caring last year.

If you are a UPOU student and has read up to this stage, I’m not going to beg you to start filling those SETs. Whether you do it or not is your prerogative. The important thing is that whatever you do, you accept what it entails.

Again, I never made any claims of being an outstanding teacher. But I do go out of my way to at least try to be one. I certainly believe I am better than a 2.68, so I will ignore it. But on the flipside, without SETs, teaching will completely become a numbers game. There would be no upside in trying to improve. I don’t even need to do this job well. I will earn my pay no matter what. There’s that… at least until I completely lose interest and quit teaching altogether.

8 comments

  • Merry Evette Glidden  

    Hi Sir Al, this is my 2nd year and I never miss to fill out a SET evaluation. It is really sad to hear this result. As UPOU student, I value the quality of education I get and make sure I do my part to maintain it to the highest standard. I hope that students that have skipped filling out SET and your concern will have a change of attitude towards it. It’s only a few minutes to complete it in return for a life long skill/knowledge we acquire in a course. What do we give back to those professors that impart their knowledge?

  • Al Librero  

    Thank you.

    It really depends on the teacher. Some have reached a stage in their lives or careers where mere continuing of their profession is already a reward by itself. I am personally nowhere near the stage, though.

    I want to spend more time discussing lessons than discussing grades. That is when I know I will learn something new, as well. And when I’m learning something new, I am motivated to do better. Otherwise, the whole thing becomes stagnant for me. The class simply becomes a leech, sapping off any energy or motivation I may have at the beginning. It’s not a happy situation to be in, that’s for sure.

    SET is supposed to be an indicator of what I am already good at and what do I need to improve on. However, if there is nothing constructive to be taken from it, then I learn nothing from it. Therefore, I’d have no positive use for it.

  • jun valila  

    HI Sir Al,

    In my 5 years or so stay at the UPOU, I seldom do the SET. Why?

    1. The SET presents a uniform framework of evaluating teachers, yet the teachers do have their different / various styles on teaching which sometimes defy the very essence of SET. There are teachers who do well, of course, you are among them. On the other hand, there are teachers who vanished in thin air at the middle of the course. In between, there are teachers who appear to care, but on intermittent manner.

    2. Students may feel that SET is pointless. We cannot see reforms on the succeeding year/s after we accomplished SET nor the results for every term are discussed with us. So whats the point of fulfilling this SET? For retribution? For what? For saying thank you to a teacher who gave the student a high grade? Think the admin must come out to let the students know the very objective of SET and above all, discuss with them the results on every term. More importantly, show us concrete effects of reforms based on the actual teachers’ performance in class.

    3. We have read that 80 to 90 percent of the general success of a certain school is attributed to the kind of its faculty. Whilst we know that we have a competent and qualified faculty at the UPOU as most of them came from other UP constituent universities too,- it seems that the balance between the standard of a traditional UP education and that of an open mode of learning is yet to be established at the UPOU. Many teachers are on a balancing act in this regard. The admin has to look at this matter deeply.

    thank yo sir.

  • Al Librero  

    Thank you. However, SET and how it should be handled differently by the administration is not a matter of discussion. If it should be up for negotiation, then that is something to be done through official channels.

    All I’ve written is how ignoring SET has been detrimental to the improvement of teaching in UPOU. I just gave readers a glimpse of what happens to those scores because it does seem that no one else does, which from what I understand, is something some of you want. I think it also partially addresses one of your points.

    With that said, your continued passive dissidence and insistence that this is all on us is your choice and I will not try to change yours, or anybody else’s minds. From what I’ve learned, there’s no point, anyway.

  • Liz Franco  

    It should be simple enough for releasing of grades to be put on hold until the student completes the SET. Isn’t that one of the benefits of an online system?

    • Al Librero  

      It depends on how the system is designed.

  • Vera  

    So, can it be said that we students, by collectively throwing away our chance to evaluate in our SET, threw away one of our valid voices in indicating a faculty’s value?

    • Al Librero  

      Yes, Vera. But the reality is a bit more complicated. It’s always the students with axes to grind who tend to be more motivated to take their time to file their evaluations than those who are either content or happy. That seriously skews evaluation results against us.

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