Making instructor evaluations mandatory was a poor decision

By Spenser Garber Contributing Writer


This is what students see when they log in to MyUWF – links to online evaluations of all their instructors.
Photo by Spenser Garber.

It’s that time of the semester again – time to fill out Student Assessments of Instructors (SAIs). It is the last thing on any student’s mind as exams and post-semester plans take up their attention.

Unfortunately, beginning this semester, the SAIs are mandatory for all students, according to an e-mail sent out to University of West Florida faculty and students. This comes after a drop in SAI completions resulting from the switch from paper to online evaluations a few years ago.

In an effort to boost completion rates, grades and transcripts now are being held hostage until a student fills out his or her assessment of the instructor. While it only takes a few minutes to fill out the SAI, it is unjustifiable to force students to fill out assessments to acquire their grades and transcripts when the class has already been paid for and the work has already been done.

Even though the evaluations are labeled as mandatory, after a threshold of 90 percent has been passed, the whole class can then view their grades and transcripts. From my experience, many of the students will just think they’ll be part of the 10 percent and not complete the SAIs. Similar to the bystander effect, students will think that “someone else” will come along and do the work that needs to be done. Also, the grades are only held until the first day of the next semester, so many people won’t be fazed by the “mandatory” SAIs.

To combat the bystander effect, some teachers are providing incentives to entice students to fill out their SAIs. The concept of incentivizing students to fill out SAIs is nothing new. I have taken several classes in which the teachers offer extra credit for completing evaluations without them being mandatory.

Along with these issues affecting students, the instructors can’t see their evaluations until the first day of the new semester, even if 100 percent of their SAIs have been completed. This gives no turnaround time for the instructors to modify and improve their classes to provide a better classroom experience for the students.

The establishment of mandatory SAIs was not a great decision by the University of West Florida administration. I would be surprised if completion rates went up by more than 10 percent.