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Payback: Students Grade Their Teachers

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Stanford University's final exams have professors nervous.

student grading a professor

No doubt about it, the end of exams and winter quarter are a nerve-wracking time at college. But at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., it's not just the kids who are sweating. It's the teachers, too.

As part of an ongoing effort to hold teachers accountable for their classroom performance, students are filling out "course evaluations" -- online surveys in which students rate their classes (and their teachers) in exchange for the chance to receive their winter grades early.

For many professors and teaching assistants, a student review can determine the fate of their careers, particularly their shot at a raise, promotion or tenure. Professors who are being evaluated for a raise must submit all their course evaluations since their last promotion, says Patricia Jones, the vice provost for faculty development and a biology professor. After which, the dean decides whether or not to promote the teacher or hire the teaching assistant full-time.

"Teaching is an important part of faculty work," Jones says. "It is expected that our faculty are good teachers."

While the notion of students in part determining their professors' careers is not commonplace, websites such as provide an honest platform for teachers to find out what their students really think of them. The site boasts over 11 million ratings for public and private schoolteachers in four countries.

Tell us: Do you think students have the right to weigh in on their teachers' academic futures?

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
michelle March 22, 2010, 1:35 PM

Um, how is this news? Students have always filled out course evaluations. And the top universities have always claimed that course evaluations are critical to tenure/promotion decisions. That’s actually BS. The quality of teaching is purely incidental — a nice-to-have, maybe something that will put an already strong candidate over the top. The quality and quantity of their publications and scholarship are waaay more important. At least at the top research universities, that is.

critter March 23, 2010, 12:41 PM

yeah, the college I went to did that to at the end of every semester. That was 4 years ago.

Luka December 30, 2010, 4:47 AM

Ahaha this one made me laugh, great time reading this :D Teachers XD , owned.

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expertmemon February 13, 2011, 3:24 PM

we do this at my university, i think its common practice in the uk hire a designer

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