Faculty, student response to Course Instructor Survey

Ashley Liu

Students can view instructors’ Course Instructor Survey grades to help prepare for fall 2017 registration.  

CIS, sponsored by the UT Faculty Innovation Center, collects end-of-semester student feedback on instructors’ performances. According to the CIS website, the survey aims to motivate teaching effectiveness, aid students in their course selection process, and inform decisions on faculty promotion and salary.

Educational psychology instructor Kyle Williams said these surveys matter.

“Departments look at your ratings,” Williams said. “If you’re a full-on faculty member, high numbers supposedly help with the tenure process. But I do know some professors who don’t give much meaning to these surveys because they believe it’s based on course content rather than their teaching ability.”

Williams said the University has a responsibility to allow students to voice their feedback on the quality of their education.

“I appreciated these surveys when I was a student,” Williams said. “Now that my role has switched, I’d like to think these numbers can motivate instructors into finding ways to make their materials more interesting and more accessible to students.”

When discussing the accuracy of survey results, Williams said the data can be affected by various factors other than teaching quality.

“I usually look at my own ratings over time so I can see a growth trend,” Williams said. “That might be more accurate than an one-time bad experience. Rather than focusing on the negative comments, I want to find ways to improve the classroom experience.”

Rate My Professor, a similar website unaffiliated with UT, is another widely used tool allowing students to review their instructors. 

Business freshman Jerry Liu said he prefers CIS because Rate My Professor contains more polarized voices.

“Students who have no particular initiative to take the survey are less likely to exaggerate,” Liu said. “Sometimes these surveys just get handed to us. Most comments on Rate My Professor come from students who are especially angry or happy, so they are less likely to have the average experience.”

Although he uses CIS for course selection, undecided freshman Carlos Villarreal said the CIS number-oriented rating system is less user-friendly than other rating sites that include student comments.

“The web design is hard to navigate,” Villarreal said. “It seems less human because only numbers are shown most of the time. I’d rather see personal explanations of why a student liked or disliked a particular professor. I hope UT can have its own version of Rate My Professor.”