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Word of Mouth Best Advice on Professors

Published: Thursday, November 19, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

The Issue: Students look to PEPs and Course Evaluations

What we think: These are not adequate indicators of quality


For students lucky enough to be blessed with a good registration time, choosing a professor often proves to be a daunting task. Does the professor tend to lecture or are classes more discussion-based? Has the professor had real-world experience in that particular subject area? How difficult are his or her tests? These questions and many more are on the minds of students as they navigate through the course selection process, and the University has finally decided to do their part in answering them.

Instead of the less-than-stellar Professor Evaluation Profile (PEP) system, students can now turn to the Agora Portal to get a detailed numerical summary of any given professor. Since PEPs are collected on a voluntary basis, they typically only represent the opinions of outliers that had either extremely positive or negative sentiments about a professor. The new system, however, is based on the end-of-year evaluations filled out by almost 90 percent of the student body. This high response rate allows for a much more accountable and complete look at BC faculty members. In addition to the professor evaluation reports, students can also access electronic syllabi and textbook requirements for many courses. All of these initiatives are part of the University's efforts to better inform students of what their prospective courses will entail.

While these new evaluations will probably be more helpful than the UGBC's PEP system, it still does not adequately reflect the totality of a particular professor or class offering. The system still does not delve into individual teaching styles, class format, or testing strategies. The questions and answers provided in the new system are fairly broad, asking things about preparedness, enthusiasm, organization and overall interest. These are certainly helpful things to know, but there is still a disconnect between this information and how a professor actually conducts class. After all, simply being prepared for class does not necessarily correlate to a dynamic and engaging academic experience. Additionally, the reports, which consist of many numbers and percentages, are often ambiguous and confusing.

While these evaluations are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, we are still left wanting more. While PEPs are not always accurate and accountable, at the very least, they offer a chance for students to share their individual opinions in detail. To combat this, perhaps we can move toward publishing the personal comments and opinions section of the end-of-year evaluations in order to get a more complete snapshot of student experience. For now, however, we urge students to seek out other outlets through which to get to know prospective professors. Do research. Google professors and the research they conduct. Attend office hours. Seek out past students. The University has lent us a helping hand with this new evaluation system. It is, at least for now, up to us to pick up the rest of the slack.

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