V.14 FACULTY EVALUATIONS AND ACCESS TO STUDENT EVALUATIONS OF INSTRUCTION
Faculty are frequently evaluated by their students (see Chapter III.4.1). Often, these evaluations of instruction take the form of written comments by the students, completed at the end of each course. Typically, the evaluation contains questions requiring answers on a numerical scale and a space for comments.
The Attorney General has ruled that student evaluations of instruction, whether viewed as personnel records or not, are records subject to the Wisconsin Public Records Law. This law presumes complete access to all records kept by a state agency, including complete access to personnel records. Denial of public access to any record is presumed to be contrary to the public interest and only in limited circumstances may access be denied. Denial is permitted only where the interest of the public in prohibiting access outweighs the interest of the public in obtaining access, or where there is a specific statutory exception. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has recognized a strong public policy interest in protecting the reputational interests of individuals who are the subjects of public records.
The Office of Administrative Legal Services recommends the following course of action and review when a request is made for access to student evaluations of instruction:
For further information contact the Office of Administrative Legal Services at 3-7400.
Publication of Course Evaluations
For many years, the UW-Madison student government published data drawn from course evaluations for courses normally taken by undergraduates, e.g., courses numbered 699 and below. Associated Students of Madison asks departments and programs offering faculty-taught course offered in the 100-600 range to send them the results of course evaluations in summary form. The information should include:
As noted above, there is no standard form or format for teaching evaluations; each department will undoubtedly seek to evaluate each course in the context of the instructor, curriculum, department, and discipline. Despite the understandable variety of questions asked, ASM seeks to facilitate comparison across courses and departments by highlighting four questions that seem to be more or less common across course evaluations: the degree to which students find the course interesting, the quality of presentation for course materials, the degree to which the instructor is available, and the overall quality of the course. To further facilitate comparison, ASM employs a 4-5 point scale, with 4 or 5 as the high/positive mark. Although neither the administration nor departments are responsible for conversion of data from individual departments into the format used to present the course evaluations, departments may wish to consider these factors as they develop their course evaluation forms.
Updated August 24, 2009 by emk
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