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LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
In Response to: VOLUME 10 ISSUE 10
March 20, 2002
FED WATCH: Ontario teacher evaluations
In comparing Ontario’s legislation for teacher appraisals with Athabasca University’s course and tutor evaluation process, Fed Watch writer Karl Low subtly chastises Athabasca University students for their low response rates in filling out these forms. Is this fair?
Upon closer reading of the Ontario legislation one finds that there are now procedures for immediately removing an identified low-performing teacher from the classroom in order to save the students from further harm. Are there procedures like this for students in the universities? No, there aren’t. Can AU students request a new tutor if they are unsatisfied with the one they have been assigned? No, they cannot. Can students request a refund if the course materials or tutor services aren’t up to snuff? No, they cannot. So identifying a poor tutor or a poor course through an evaluation form does nothing for the student who has suffered. They have already spent their money. What incentive do they have for sending in these forms? And all mail-in surveys have low response rates. It’s human nature.
Although most would agree that a majority of AU’s courses and tutors are wonderful, there are some poor ones. And a tutor may be unfairly identified as being poor when in fact it was the low quality of the course materials that made it difficult for the tutor to succeed.
Students are very busy people and they are very smart. They know that most universities do nothing with course and teacher evaluation input. Perhaps AU is different, or perhaps they are not. Because the Alberta government knows from public input that universities typically ignore student input from evaluations, they have amended their FOIPP to require universities to provide students access to completed course and teacher evaluation forms so that students may make informed choices. Do student unions that profess to provide student advocacy to their members take advantage of this new FOIPP feature? Do they know how easy it would be to check up on whether a university actually pays attention to evaluations completed by students?