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Teaching Evaluation, Is it Really Helping?A closer look at the teaching evaluation system
Lee Ji-yeon  |
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승인 2013.03.02  14:02:41
트위터 페이스북 구글 카카오스토리

MOST UNIVERSITIES in Korea have a mandatory teaching evaluation system in which students can anonymously evaluate courses at the end of the semester. Students are required to fill out questionnaires regarding their courses, professors, and class atmosphere. If students do not answer the questionnaires by the designated time, they are at a disadvantage. For example, in the case of Yonsei, students cannot check or revise their grades during grade correction period if they do not complete their evaluations. According to the research paper “Problems of Compulsory Teaching Evaluation System” by Han Kyung-soo (Prof., Dept. of Statistics, Chonbuk National Univ.), Choi Sook-hee (Prof., Dept. of Psychology, Woosuk Univ.) and Park Jae-cheol (Prof., Dept. of Statistics, Chonbuk National Univ.) these compulsory methods have forced more than 90% of the students to fill out teaching evaluation questionnaires. But many are questioning whether the teaching evaluation system does indeed fulfill its designated purpose.

The reality
   At the end of every semester, Yonsei University asks students to evaluate the courses they have taken. This evaluation questionnaire is composed of 11 multiple choices and 1 short answer question. The questions vary from the overall satisfaction level to openness to diversity and different values. Other universities also have similar questionnaires concerning teaching evaluation. However, the validity of this result is to be questioned. “Problems of Compulsory Teaching Evaluation System” reported that around 20% of the students replied with the same answer choice for all the questions in a row regardless of courses. A large number of students also leave the short answer questions blank or type meaningless letters.
   According to the survey report regarding college students from *Daehaknaeil* Research Laboratory for the Twenties, 61% of the students believed that their teaching evaluation replies have not been taken into consideration while only 11% of the students replied that their evaluations have been reflected in the following semester. Park Ji-sun (Soph., UIC, Dept. of Econ.) who asked to use a pseudonym, complains about this issue. Park has an experience of retaking a course that she had evaluated before. In the evaluation, she wrote that there were not enough study materials and that the course was too focused on the students in the front row. However, when she retook the course, she saw no improvements. Park furthermore expresses concern regarding anonymity. “Although the school assures students that their responses would remain anonymous, students fear that professors might somehow find out what they have written. This could hinder students from writing honest critiques about the courses.”
   In addition Yoon Jung-bin (Soph., UIC, Dept. of Culture & Design Management) believes that there is a systematic problem. In the current system, every course’s evaluation question is identical regardless of the varying characteristics of different courses. Yoon states that holistic education such as creative art, music appreciation, or body for life should have different questionnaires from major courses since they have distinct characteristics. In 2012, Yoon took the Body for Life, a physical education course. In the education questionnaire, Yoon had to assess how much the course enhanced her ability to communicate her thoughts through speaking and writing. She says, “it is clear that the question was not in accordance with the main objective of Body for Life, which is to understand the proper way to exercise. In the future, these issues should be properly addressed and teaching evaluation questions must be adjusted according to the specific nature of courses.”
   In contrast to the negative feedback from the students, Park Gi-young (Prof., Yonsei Univ.), an anonymous interviewee states that she thinks highly of the teaching evaluation program in that it provides useful feedbacks. She expresses that “students are usually passive on bilateral communication. Through this evaluation system, professors can acquire better understanding of their students and improve their performance on the basis of constructive feedback.” However, there are issues that professors have to deal with. Park is concerned that this system only enables one way communication. According to her, professors sometimes have justifying explanations for students’ complaints, but there are no means to deliver their thoughts to students under the current system. Moreover, there are some students who fill out their teaching evaluation emotionally. She hopes that the teaching evaluation program does not end up being a way students can blindly criticize their professors. She suggests that the teaching evaluation system to rather be a medium where students can give constructive feedback.

For the better of Yonsei
   Even though some drawbacks exist within the system of teaching evaluation, it is apparent the teaching evaluation system is needed for both students and professors. Evaluation results can provide professors with practical feedbacks and students can also refer to the results when selecting courses.
   In response to the failures of the current teaching evaluation system, the student body autonomously created a supplementary system. At Yonsei, *Yonsei Chunchu*’s webzine called Yondo, opened a teaching evaluation board in 2006. On the board, students can freely evaluate courses and when they do, they get awarded for showing their experience through gifticon. What differentiates Yondo’s service from the one made by the school is its questionnaire. Instead of multiple choices, there are subjective questions asking for specific information. Users can also access posts at any time unlike the original system where students can only see evaluations during a designated period. Hence, students are likely to gain information more easily, Yondo currently hosts 13,005 posts as of Feb. 16, 2013. Other major private universities such as Korea University, Sogang University, and Ewha Women’s University also have student-made teaching evaluation services.

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The student-led evaluation system could be more convenient to the students in that posts of good quality can be viewed at anytime and can guarantee anonymity for sure. However, one should think about the following questions. Can Yondo teaching evaluation results be useful for professors and the school administration? If so, can they trust the ones conducted by students or unofficial websites? It is time to ask the school for a new measure that addresses these questions.

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