USATs need reforms to have a real impact on teaching

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Even though everyone is expected to fill out USATs at the end of the semester, what students might not know is how much of an impact these single pieces of paper can have on their professors. 

The debate surrounding whether or not the USATs present fair evaluations of instructors has been around since they were introduced. We’re lucky to have a system that attempts to give students an anonymous platform to hold professors accountable for their learning. That being said, the USATs haven’t always proven to be the most reliable evaluation tool. 

Not many students are aware USAT scores have the ability to affect a professor’s pay. Some don’t even know their teachers take the time to read them for constructive feedback. As a result, the evaluations aren’t taken as seriously as they should be. 

In many classes, DSC representatives are held responsible for dispensing the evaluations and collecting them. However, they often don’t have the USATs’ significance fully explained to them. By the time they reach students, there’s a huge disconnect between what these evaluations are meant for and what students assume they should be doing with them. 

The main goal of having students evaluate their instructors is to help professors with their professional development. They act as a platform to explain what worked in a class, what didn’t and what could be improved for the next year. 

The reason they’re tied to salaries is to provide incentive for professors to take these critiques seriously. However, when the feedback isn’t always serious, it’s difficult to justify how it affects someone’s pay. 

Unless students actively seek out information on USATs, they won’t be made aware of their importance. There needs to be a campaign that informs students about the impact their reviews can really have. At the very least, there needs to be a mandatory explanation of what the USATs are before they’re handed out to students. 

There’s a major disconnect between students and professors when it comes to what the USATs are for. Until those expectations are corrected, neither group is going to get what they need from them. 

— Journal Editorial Board

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