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TCE results might be published

Maureen Reynolds | Monday, September 8, 2003

During Student Government elections last year, many candidates campaigned on the issue of Teacher Course Evaluation publication, each stating that they would work to have the publication available for student use. As the new academic year begins, the office of Student Body President Pat Hallahan is working to do just that.

Junior Jeremy Staley heads the committee working on the TCE issue. Staley has studied the current TCE process and believes that by publishing the TCE’s for students to use, the University will facilitate a better student/faculty relationship, in addition to helping students create their own education.

“This is the biggest student-initiated academic proposal in years, because this has the chance to impact every student on campus,” Staley said. “It is a big issue because students will be in a little more control over their education, to sculpt their education.”

Currently, the TCE results are compiled by the University’s Office of Institutional Research and are then given to respective professors, deans, and department chairs. These results are partially used as a tool to determine promotions for professors, yet students are unable see the compiled results of their opinions.

Due to the lack of information available to them, students routinely use non-University sources, namely NDtoday.com. However, the concern with sources such as this is that information is often out of date, many students’ opinions are biased, and a broad range of student opinion is not posted.

These concerns would be eliminated with the proposed process. Student Government plans to publish the TCE results on Irishlink to ensure that the results would only be available to members of the Notre Dame community. Outside sources would not be able to view the TCE’s.

Because a change in the way the evaluations are published is such a large issue, Student Government has already researched ways other universities have handled the situation. Staley said that of the “Top 20” schools they researched, 13 of those officially publish their version of the TCE with results available to students.

In addition to publishing the numerical results of the TCE questions, the new proposal includes space for the professor to write qualitative information about themselves that they wish be available to students to know. This would include information regarding their teaching style, requirements for their courses, etc.

The information, Staley commented, “adds more to the picture. Ideally, we get a better match between students and professors.”

By including an opportunity to tell students about their respective professors, Student Government hopes to reassure faculty that TCE publication is beneficial for students to match themselves with professors whose teaching styles and class subjects would most further their education.

The faculty holds other concerns about this issue, however. Staley said that they are most concerned students will use the given information simply to pick professors who will give them the highest grades. Faculty members also fear some professors will provide an incentive to students, giving higher grades in return for better results on the TCE’s, Staley said.

He, for one, believes this is an enormous underestimation of the quality of Notre Dame students and faculty.

“The typical student attracted to this university seeks an education of a caliber and comprehensiveness far beyond what any grade-point-average could provide. … Instructors who would resort to grade inflation in hopes of higher TCE evaluations would be easily identifiable by administrators, who would in turn evaluate that professor’s performance,” said Staley in his proposal draft for TCE publication.

Finally, for those professors who are completely against the idea of publishing TCE results, Staley said they would be allowed to opt out of the process.

“If a lot of professors don’t participate, students can still use NDtoday. But even that will show students the faculty culture,” he said.

In order to begin the process of getting the TCE’s published, the proposal must be presented to, and then passed by, the University’s Academic Council. The council is chaired by University President Father Edward Malloy and includes members of the administration, faculty and four students. It is unknown when the meeting with the Academic Council will take place, but Staley believes it to be in the near future.

He reiterated his belief that TCE publication will greatly enhance the student learning experience, but acknowledged that a lot must happen before that can take place.

“Notre Dame still has a long way to go in terms of a student’s power, but just because we don’t see eye to eye doesn’t mean they are not working in the students’ best interest.”