Student Evaluations of Teaching

Dear Colleagues,

Those of you who are on the teaching faculty at UBC will likely have received a formal message or some other form of communication regarding the use of student evaluations of teaching (SEoTs) this term. Different decisions have been made on each campus: SEoTs will not be collected at UBCO, but will be collected at UBCV. At UBCV, individual faculty members will decide whether their SEoTs from this term will be used for summative purposes. These decisions were taken without agreement with the Faculty Association on this matter.

The FA has made it clear to the University that we do not believe that SEoTs provide valid measures of teaching effectiveness. We have already shared our reasons for this as part of our recent bargaining communications.1 Since we believe that SEoTs are not valid measures of teaching effectiveness even in the best of times and should only be used for formative purposes, we are even more concerned about their use in these extraordinary circumstances, which have introduced many complications that go well beyond the ability of individual faculty members to control. Thus, while we did not reach an agreement with the University on this matter before the decisions were announced, we do agree with the decision made on the UBCO campus not to use SEoTs this term. Indeed, the rationale used by the Okanagan Deans and Provost to cancel SEoTs for this term reflect many of the concerns raised by the Faculty Association, including the unreasonableness of conducting SEoTs at this time, and the inequities the process will produce.

The UBCV decision is, in our view, a mistake. We are concerned that the University made the decision in part because “it will be useful to gather student feedback on their experience of the transition to online” (Szeri, memo to Deans, 31 March 2020). While it might very well be useful for UBCV to have such feedback, the SEoT questionnaire was not developed with that goal in mind and will not provide reliable or valid data on that topic. We are also concerned about the burden now placed on individual faculty members coming up for promotion, tenure, and merit in having to decide in their own case whether to include their numbers for this term. This individualized decision procedure is inconsistent with the Collective Agreement and we will be looking at our options as to how to remedy the situation. In addition to the two distinct regimes of evaluation on the two campuses for this term, this introduces inequities into the summative decision-making processes for years to come and alters these important processes without agreement to do so.

We will continue to work with the UBC administration on a number of matters during these extraordinary times and to press them to seek our agreement before announcing major decisions on matters that have potential labour relations consequences.

Bronwen Sprout

1) Bargaining – Student Opinion Surveys & Bargaining – Alternatives to Student Evaluations of Teaching