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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to Boost Your Student Evaluations

Chronicle of Higher Education: Tricks for Boosting Student Evaluations, by Gene C. Fant Jr.:

I often chuckle at how faculty members will sometimes wheedle and cajole their students to give higher marks. Local doughnut shops tend to see sales rise that week as professors buy treats for their classes. Extra-credit assignments seem to pop up like mushrooms after a nice long spring shower. Pep talks about how much the students make life worth living are heard resounding in the hallways.

What is the most interesting "trick" you have seen faculty members use to bargain for better student evaluations? ...

  • An instructor up for tenure projected a picture of his wife and child on a large screen while the evaluations were being written.
  • A colleague who taught a large-lecture format (250 students) introductory logic course always had donuts delivered to the lecture hall the day of class evaluations.
  • Let's see: 1) announcing that the final exam will be given before exam week, giving students (and, not incidentally, faculty) exam week off, 2) announcing a curve favorable to grade inflation, 3) carrying the evaluations around for the final two weeks of classes, awaiting a favorable attendance pattern to administer the forms, 4) shifting the final exam to a take-home format, 5) agreeing to drop the lowest exam or quiz grade.
  • Taking the entire class out for lunch and distributing the evaluations with dessert.
  • Chocolate
  • Chicago-Kent law professor Richard Conviser's ratings were so low that he got the rating service, ratemyprofs.com, to remove his ratings all together!
    See http://www.lawschool.com/beforeandafter.htm

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Comments

This is comical. So much effort to get high marks and none whatsoever to employ suggested changes. Students know their opinions don't matter, which is why some schools have had to link the release of grades to completion of evaluations.

Posted by: s | Apr 14, 2010 11:32:16 AM

"This is comical. So much effort to get high marks and none whatsoever to employ suggested changes. Students know their opinions don't matter, which is why some schools have had to link the release of grades to completion of evaluations."

I know of many instances in which changes are made. (Not all suggestions are good; many suggestions contradict one another.) I am curious as to which schools link the release of grades that way -- but in any case, it suggests that the schools care about getting representative and more valid input.

Anyway, I would strongly suggest that you read the posted article and the comments -- they suggest a flawed system, but *not* one in which student opinions don't matter. Why bribe the irrelevant?

Posted by: e | Apr 14, 2010 2:27:17 PM

How can I get my ratings off RateMyProfessors.com?

Posted by: Parker Davis | Apr 17, 2010 9:12:16 AM

Hire Skadden Arps, the way Conviser did!

Posted by: Associate Dean | May 2, 2010 9:59:17 PM

"Students know their opinions don't matter"

That's certainly not true where I teach. It's why nearly half my students get B's or better. I tell dumb jokes, make it as entertaining as I know how, and demand next to nothing out of my students. In turn, I get fantastic student evaluations and the administration pats me on the back. As that's what is expected of me so be it. The university is improving its retention rates and I'm on my way to tenure. As long as I can do my research and I can provide for my family I could hardly care less.

Posted by: Anonymous Math Prof. | May 9, 2010 11:49:10 PM