It's that time of year.
As the semester ends, reminders for instructor evaluations are landing in every student's inbox.
Using a model adopted from the University of Washington in the late 1990s, and as decided by SGA and the faculty senate at the time, the Student Assessment of Instruction System attempts to provide an accurate depiction of course instruction quality.
But response rates for evaluations are low, with only 30-40 percent of the student population participating. This low rating has spurred requests from faculty.
"The response rate has been an issue for faculty and instructors, and it's something that we are continuing to work on," Elizabeth Pemberton, the SAIS Coordinator, said. "You know, you don't want to spend your time doing this just to think it disappears into a black hole. If your professor tells you how they use it and you feel like it's meaningful to them, I think that is important to students."
However, Pemberton said SAIS understands the timing may pose difficulties for some students.
"This is a busy time of the semester for students, and this is another on the list of things you have to do," Pemberton said.
Aaron Hamby, a pre-pharmacy freshman, said he intends to make time for the evaluations, but primarily for courses in which he had a negative experience.
"It gives me more of an incentive to fill it out if I do have a complaint," Hamby said, "because I want it to be fixed for the next semester that takes them."
If an instructor receives repeatedly low evaluation scores, he or she could be referred to the Teaching and Learning Center for help with instruction.
Pemberton stressed that one bad evaluation does not doom an instructor's career.
"There may be underlying reasons for a bad evaluation," Pemberton said. "One here or there shouldn't really hurt someone. There are instructors that go to the TLC on their own, but it's really at the department level."
While only instructors may view anonymous responses to the survey's open-ended questions, department heads can have access to the scale questions. Students can also access the scale results through the Tennessee 101 portal on the SGA website. The database was last updated in 2011.
Still, students remain skeptical about how seriously these evaluations are taken.
"Some teachers, I don't feel like look at them," Hamby said. "The older teachers might, I don't know. From talking to my lab TAs, they're like, 'We don't really look at them as much as our older professors look at them.' I don't know if they're going to be as useful as they should be."
Amy Heger, a graduate student in the experimental psychology Ph.D. program, is teaching her first semester class this fall and plans to use her evaluations as a learning tool.
"I'm hoping for feedback on how I can tailor my teaching style," Heger said. "Getting feedback on the things that people find are really helpful in their learning versus stuff that might be annoying, so I can know for the future."