101 Guide to Evaluating a Professor

November 16, 2021 Watermark Insights

101 Guide to Evaluating a Professor

Teaching is an art that's difficult to master, which means that feedback is essential to help professors grow. Professor performance evaluations give instructors insight directly from students to improve your professors' teaching ability and reach students more effectively. In addition to invaluable feedback, professor evaluations help hold your campus staff to a higher degree of accountability and keep employees committed to honing their skills.

The teacher evaluation system is an ever-revolving cycle that allows for consistent progress. Teacher effectiveness refers to a teacher's ability to improve student learning through testing, comprehension, and more. All professor course evaluations should be guided by the five points of teacher effectiveness. This outlines what professors should do to be effective instructors, including the following:

  1. Hold their students to high expectations and help students achieve high measures on test-based and alternative measures of growth
  2. Contribute positive academic and behavioral outcomes for students, including but not limited to regular attendance, self-efficacy, cooperative behavior, and on-time graduation
  3. Use a diverse multitude of resources to create engaging lessons and effectively monitor student progress and adapt instruction as necessary to engage evolving student need
  4. Contribute to their classrooms and schools while valuing civic-mindedness and diversity
  5. Collaborate with their department, administrators, and other education professionals in their field of study to ensure success for all students

Examples of Instructor Evaluation Questions

Suggested categories and criteria to evaluate a professor's teaching

To evaluate a professor's teaching thoroughly, you must approach their classroom from many angles. Student evaluations of professors are one aspect of a holistic evaluation process and your administration should use them in conjunction with observations, grades, student success, and more. It's important to remember that all professors have room for improvement, and feedback is required to improve teaching ability.

Versatile college professor evaluation criteria are invaluable for professors across multiple disciplines, subjects, and departments. Keep instructor evaluation forms relatively short to minimize decision fatigue and give students time to write their thoughts after the multiple-choice selection. Watermark recommends using the following evaluation categories and criteria as an instructor evaluation checklist for a holistic view of your professor's teaching abilities:

1. Knowledge and Enthusiasm for Subject Matter

The most important element to instructor success is a wide base of knowledge and a healthy enthusiasm for the subject matter they teach. Consider asking students to rank the following statements regarding their professor's knowledge and enthusiasm for subject matter by acknowledging that the professor is or does the following things:

  • Is highly invested and enthusiastic about the course material they teach and convey a sense of excitement in the classroom
  • Understands the general principles of their discipline
  • Provides students with a clear overview of the discipline
  • Can sufficiently and accurately answer student questions regarding their discipline and subject of expertise
  • Bases curriculum and assignments around the most current developments in their field
  • Stays current on their field of study, actively seeks out new material, and/or participates in professional research
  • Shows continuous growth in their field of study and encourages students to pursue similar paths

2. Experience, Skill, and Creativity in the Classroom

Effective instructors elevate their teaching abilities and experiential knowledge with skills and creativity in the classroom. A good professor should:

  • Outline and effectively present the required materials, techniques, and skills needed to succeed.
  • Clearly outline key course concepts and techniques in an organized manner.
  • Encourage critical thinking by asking interesting, pressing, and challenging questions.
  • Encourage active learning strategies in the classroom.
  • Persistently monitor student progress toward learning goals in a variety of creative ways.
  • Recognize and reach out to students having academic difficulties and offer assistance.

3. Clear Student Expectations and Testing Practices

Just as evaluating instructors is crucial to success, so is understanding how to best evaluate students. We recommend using the following metrics to gauge how well a professor lays out their student expectations and tests:

  • Clearly communicates class and assignment expectations
  • Clearly explains the writing expectations for the course Have clear standards of performance for course expectation
  • Increase overall student understanding of course concepts
  • Grades assignments fairly and in alignment with their expectations
  • Grades assignments within a reasonable time frame
  • Creates assignments consistent with the course's learning objectives
  • Gives clear and accurate feedback about student performance on assignments
  • Provides students with constructive criticism on projects and written assignments
  • Uses a range of tools to assess student learning

4. Professionalism in the Classroom and Beyond

Whether meeting for office hours, labs, or research, professionalism extends outside of the classroom. It's essential instructors respect students as individuals and do the following things:

  • Encourage the free pursuit of learning and academic freedom
  • Give consistent constructive feedback on assignments
  • Provide meaningful feedback for topics of research
  • Provide meaningful ongoing guidance on course materials
  • Answer students when questions arise concerning an assignment
  • Advise students with problems with course material
  • Identify students who are not well suited for the course and recommend alternative instruction or individualized learning approaches
  • Continuously embody their institution's code of conduct

5. Overall Teaching Effectiveness

There are several criteria all instructors must embody to be overall effective teachers:

  • Succeeds in creating an environment conducive to learning
  • Is actively concerned with student progress and learning
  • Is well prepared for every class session
  • Stimulates class interest in the topic at hand
  • Expects a high level of performance and makes it achievable
  • Is an overall effective instructor for the course's material

6. Open Feedback Section

In addition to the criteria you've outlined in professor surveys, give students open space to mention what they enjoyed most about the course and how they think it should improve. It's essential that students understand how to evaluate their professor respectfully and that this space is required to promote growth. Students should also understand that they are protected by anonymity.

How to Evaluate the Feedback Professors Receive

As with any form of evaluation, the data professors glean from student evaluations can be a mixed bag. Students tend to evaluate a class based on their personal enjoyment or success in the class rather than what they've learned, making it easy for less effective teachers to receive great professor evaluations and good teachers to receive bad professor evaluations. While evaluating student surveys and analyzing trends, it's essential to remember the following:

  • Studies have shown professors who give higher grades tend to receive better evaluations. This factor may motivate some professors to inflate or curve their grades and puts student ratings into question.
  • Students tend to evaluate professors based on how much they like the course, especially when students dislike the work involved or lack the ability to meet challenges.
  • Students tend to rank male professors higher than female professors, even when both teachers are teaching the same course and evaluating students based on the same metrics. Unlike male professors, female professors are likely to be evaluated by students based on their personality and appearance. Since student evaluations can carry both unintentional and overt sexist overtones, relying on them can reinforce discrimination.

When trying to make sense of college instructor evaluations, several measures can help you gain more valuable insight. One approach is to base the reliability of the professor evaluations by listening to the top-performing students in the class above the rest. Schools can also increase the value of student evaluations of college professors by administering them later in each student's career to see the true value of the class in retrospect.

students tend to evaluate a class based on personal enjoyment or success in the class rather than what they've learned

Improving Student Evaluation Accuracy and Reliability

There are effective approaches you can take to increase the integrity and constructiveness of the evaluations you receive. Consider the following measures to increase the validity of student evaluations of professors:

  • Consider student mid-course evaluations: If you're concerned about end-of-course evaluations, consider holding informal evaluations earlier into the course to see how each cohort of students is learning. The feedback from early course evaluations can allow professors to correct the course and focus on the areas students most struggle with.
  • Provide anonymity: While anonymity can be a double-edged sword, it lets students be honest without worrying about potential repercussions to their grades.
  • Increase student response rates: Instructors receive more accurate and reliable evaluations when each one of their students completes end-of-course evaluations. Increase student participation by making them mandatory, sending reminder notifications, giving students bonus points, and even locking grades behind evaluations.
  • Encourage constructive criticism: Students are more likely to give fair and accurate evaluations when they understand that the department expects respectful and constructive criticisms.
  • Explain how student evaluations are used: Students provide better feedback when they realize department chairs and committees use feedback for promotions and tenure. Assure them the data they provide is valuable to the institution.
  • Have students recall specific examples: Reduce bias and false statements by having students use specific examples alongside their criticisms. Examples may include feedback on presentation styles, learning modules, course expectations, grading protocol, and more.

Survey and Evaluation Tools

Watermark Course Evaluations & Surveys helps you use your student feedback to transform your campus and create more effective professors. Our course evaluation and surveys are specifically designed to meet the demands of higher education and its unique challenges. Watermark course evaluation software comes with the following survey and instructor evaluation tools:

  • Create accessible survey options: Students can quickly respond to surveys with whatever equipment they have available, like their smartphones. Professors can set up reminders and alerts on students' devices and even require students to complete surveys to unlock their grades.
  • Eliminate the need for data entry: Watermark automatically compiles professors' feedback so they can see trends and analysis without entering any data themselves. Instructors can say goodbye to hours of data entry, response chasing, building reports. By implementing survey and evaluation software, your business can save money on labor that potentially offsets license costs and doubles response rates.
  • Integrate with your existing technology: Our software integrates with major higher education providers including Canvas, Blackboard, D2L, and Moodle. Bossier Parish Community College even found they were able to integrate Watermark with Blackboard in less than one hour. With in-depth software integration, all your survey data can stay attached to the student, course, and faculty, and your response rates can rise to 80% or higher.
  • Allow student voices to influence faculty development: The Watermark Faculty Success (formerly Digital Measures) integration lets you include student evaluation responses in annual review cycles and make better decisions regarding faculty hiring and progression.
  • Provide a 360-degree view of your institution: With the amount of data and insight gleaned from your surveys, your institution will be able to make better decisions. Our Course Evaluations & Surveys tool works across multiple languages and can be used for general surveys and reporting in addition to student feedback. You may even double your participation just by implementing our surveys.
  • Offer a fast path to insights: Watermark takes the strain and guesswork out of survey collection with centralized and customizable evaluations. With our software, you'll minimize IT involvement, decentralize administration, and have an overall painless implementation. Improve feedback timeliness and get your evaluation insights to professors immediately after they're due with Watermark.

Watermark Faculty Success

Watermark professor evaluation tools are just one part of our transformative product suite. When you use Watermark Course Evaluations & Surveys, your intelligence will gather straight into Faculty Success to inform you on new faculty reviews. This means that faculty accomplishments will be front and center to help you make decisions regarding hiring and career progression.

Our Faculty Success solution is easy to use and lets you pull student evaluations, articles, and CV data into a thorough and accessible dossier. Reviewers can access all digitized evaluation materials from one secure login. Eliminate the need for endless physical evaluations and enable reviewers to access student evaluation materials from Watermark Faculty Success quickly.

See the Bigger Campus Picture With Watermark

At Watermark, our solutions enable your administration to see how student evaluations play into your campus' bigger picture. Our goal is to help you get more accurate insights, increase evaluation responses, and greatly minimize the amount of time used on data entry. See the difference we can make for your professors and administration when you get a Watermark demo today.

See the bigger campus picture with Watermark - Request a demo

About the Author

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut euismod velit sed dolor ornare maximus. Nam eu magna eros.

More Content by Watermark Insights
Previous Article
The Benefits of Course Evaluation in Higher Education
The Benefits of Course Evaluation in Higher Education

Allowing students to voice their concerns with and appreciation for their courses or instructors gives them...

Next Article
We Are the Champions: Building a Case for New Tech
We Are the Champions: Building a Case for New Tech

Howard University knew they needed multiple technology solutions to help with their assessment and accredit...

Pull course evaluations into faculty reviews without extra effort.

See how