Do students lack capacity to 'judge' teachers?
Wed, Dec 16, 2009
Viet Nam News

The Ministry of Education and Training's programme to let students evaluate lecturers may not receive the results it expected due to the fact that many students hesitate to give a true evaluation of their lectures and many lecturers disagree with the idea of letting students "judge" them.

The programme is being piloted at several universities in the first term of the academic year 2009-10. The aim is to improve teaching methods to meet the demands of students and society, and for lecturers to adjust their teaching methods if necessary. It will be carried out on mass in the second term.

A third-year student of Ha Noi University of Technology, who wished to remain anonymous, said that most of the students in his class gave good or fair evaluations of their lecturers.

"No one wants to give a negative assessment because we don't want lecturers to dislike us," he said.

Nguyen Van Chinh, a student from the University of Water Resource, said that the same thing happened in his class.

"Many students in my class just copied what others wrote on their forms," Chinh said.

There are many things that students do not feel satisfied about with lecturers' teaching, but most of them did not write it down, or just wrote something in general like "should care more for students" or "should be more enthusiastic," according to Cao Van Nang from the same university.

Universities need to be more open minded to allow students to evaluate lecturers more accurately, he said.

Faculty perspective

Many lecturers seem unhappy with the idea.

Nguyen Van Nghia, a lecturer at the University of Water Resource, said that students should not be allowed to evaluate the teaching methods of lecturers.

"There are lecturers who are extremely knowledgeable, but only good students understand their teaching methods, while students with average ability can find it difficult," Nghia said.

Thus, it cannot be said that a lecturer's teaching ability is bad, he said.

Le Van Toan, vice principal of the Ha Noi University of Business and Technology, said that most of the lecturers in his school preferred not to publicise the results of the survey.

"They protest because it is unfair, and many of them said that students must not be allowed to evaluate their lecturers," Toan said.

He said that it was up to school leaders to hold private talks with lecturers who received many student complaints.

Nguyen Duc Hoa, vice principal of Ha Noi Law University agreed with the idea, saying that the evaluation of each lecturer should remain in-house only for assessment.

Deputy Director of the Department of Teachers and Education Management Staff Unit, Truong Dinh Mau said that this kind of survey was quite new to schools. The difficulty in realising the idea was that it had to meet the productive target of improving the quality of teaching, but also ensure that students retained enough respect for their teachers, he said.

According to him, it is necessary to create a standard procedure for such a survey.

Many other lecturers, who are in favour of the survey, agreed.

"The important thing is that we have to have a proper questionnaire, which is satisfactory to students without causing a shock to lecturers," said Nguyen Minh Hung, former vice principal of the Continuing Education Centre of Ha Noi Civil Engineering University.

"It is true that many lecturers still hesitate to allow students to assess their teaching quality. But, it is also true that, if a lecturer can give interesting lectures, students would never be off from class," Hung said.

However, the survey can only be carried out in an effective way if the questions are structured in such a way that the students answer them in a constructive fashion, said Nguyen Khanh Trung, lecturer of the National University of HCM City.

"I understand that in many cases, students would praise lecturers who are easy-going, while under-evaluating strict lecturers. That would not be fair and that result is not what we need," he said.

Mau said after the survey, if a lecturer was judged not to be delivering effective teaching by students, that lecturer could take time to improve their teaching standards. If he or she still failed to meet the requirements, the university could move them on to alternative work.

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