The Truth is Powerful
Rather than highlighting the folly of using student comments in the personnel process, we should use those comments to improve the classroom experience, argues Sharon Block.
“Block is a conceited, sanctimonious, egotistical, close-minded, arrogant, and downright rude ideologue and left-wing propagandist … That she is on your payroll at the University of California, Irvine, is disgusting,” read the 2014 student evaluation.
That comment still makes me wince. Even though the seminar’s other students were full of compliments, even though I have had thousands of positive comments on my classes over the years, I hated knowing that it would live forever in my personnel file. Because the class had been a small seminar, I could easily identify this student from his pages of feedback on, in his words, the course’s “whatever-the-hell progressive nonsense.”
That student’s vitriol stemmed as much from the course’s subject — a history of race and sexuality — as from my pedagogical choices. Faculty members who teach nontraditional or controversial topics or who inhabit a body that makes clear their nontraditional status regularly receive these types of comments, albeit often in more coded terms.
A growing body of research shows gender and racial biases in student evaluations of faculty. One study of online teaching masked the gender of the instructor and found that people perceived as women received lower ratings. Another identified more negative […]