Dear Penn State, Please Make SRTE Responses Public
It’s that time of year again. As the semester winds down and finals week looms overhead, professors will soon be imploring you to fill out SRTEs to evaluate their teaching performance. And if you’re like me, you probably won’t fill any out.
It’s nothing personal, but the only two SRTEs I have ever filled out in my five semesters here have been for a pair of exceptionally good professors that I truly felt deserved a positive review.
For the rest of the professors I have taken, I haven’t felt as moved to fill out the form. Don’t get me wrong — I always tell myself that I’m going to fill them out but then I start it and get to the open-ended questions, and I give up. It’s like, haven’t you already given me enough assignments this semester? And now I have to take the time to write how I feel? No, thank you.
Maybe I’m in the minority of people who can’t take five minutes out of their day to fill out opinion-based open-ended questions about teachers (even though I apparently have plenty of time to write columns about them for a blog), but I have a hunch that most students skip filling out their SRTEs simply because it doesn’t affect them.
The SRTEs are designed for departments to get feedback on their courses and instructors, and most departments supposedly require a certain threshold percentage of students in the course to fill out the SRTE for it to be considered. However, it seems foolish not to share this information with students because they are the ones responsible for filling them out, and they would greatly benefit from the information.
Making SRTEs public would incentivize students to take the time to fill them out meaningfully. It would effectively create a school-sponsored rate my professor system that would be both more consistent and more up to date. This would provide invaluable information to students as they schedule their classes. Plus, it would keep departments accountable for glaring problems with some courses and/or professors.
There isn’t much transparency in the current form of SRTEs. For all we know, some tenured professors could be completely immune to bad reviews that have been piling up for years. Without transparency, you get students like me who don’t care enough to fill out open-ended questions because it isn’t clear how that information will be received — or if it will be considered at all.
If SRTEs were public, students would put more effort into them for the benefit of themselves and their peers. Departments would get record-setting SRTE response rates, students would be better informed when selecting classes, and we would all live happily ever after.
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