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Students talk about TCEs

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, October 7, 2004

The long-debated subject of teacher course evaluations was again discussed at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting, as Alumni senator Vijay Ramanan, former student body president Jeremy Lao and student delegate to the Academic Council Jeremy Staley presented a Course Review Resource as a solution to the TCE problem.Three years in the making, the proposal sets forth a plan for a Web-based resource that provides both professor-provided information about courses – like syllabi and descriptions – and student feedback about classes.The student responses would be compiled from a form handed out in addition to, but separate from, the normal TCE assessments. The collected data, in theory, would be posted on the official Web site so it could be viewed in conjunction with the objective facts about the courses. The distinction from official TCEs – used by administration for tenure assessment, among other things – is aimed at alleviating faculty and administration concerns about publishing important and possibly sensitive information. “The idea is that you’ll have access to course information like syllabi, reading lists and student feedback in a format that is more official than NDToday.com,” Staley said, in reference to the popular online teacher evaluations not sanctioned by the University. “Students will have access to important, helpful information before they register for classes so they can make the best decisions.”Staley added that the majority of Notre Dame’s peer institutions already have similar systems in place.”There is such a great precedent with what other universities are doing,” he said.The proposal was sent to the Office of the Provost Wednesday, though they are still early in the process, said Lao. “What we’re looking for right now is student support to show us that they want this system,” Lao said. “And in the future, if it is approved, we’ll need student support to make sure it works effectively.”Concerns about the proposal included the added time burden to the already lengthy TCE process, the honesty of student responses and the ease of access to the Web site for both students and professors. Ramanan said the hassle of a longer evaluation could be a problem, but that the time needed to fill out one extra page of brief questions was relatively negligible. In response to the question of putting the survey online rather than physically including it with the TCEs, Ramanan said students were more likely to respond, and to respond honestly, if they were given time in class to do so. Because the proposal is in such a preliminary stage, no official timetable has been worked out yet. Ramanan, however, said he hoped at least part of it would be up and running by next semester. “We want the most representative, complete and accurate assessment of courses,” Ramanan said. “So we’re going to approach this the right way, and take all the necessary steps to make sure it succeeds.”Senators responded favorably to the proposal, but cannot vote to approve it until next week’s meeting.