September 19, 2012
NY Times Debate: Professors and the Students Who Grade Them
New York Times, Room for Debate: Professors and the Students Who Grade Them:
At the end of each academic term on many U.S. campuses, students complete evaluations of their course instructors. It is a process that has been criticized for years, and yet it shows a very common desire: to find an effective way to weed out the bad apples. High-stakes evaluations are in vogue not only in higher education but also in elementary and high school.
Are college students’ evaluations of their instructors a useful way to assess professors? What might be more effective?
- Scott Carrell (University of California, Davis, Department of Economics) & James West (Baylor University, Department of Economics) (authors of Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence From Random Assignment of Students to Professors), What We Saw: "Our study showed that students confuse course grades with long-term learning, and reward those professors who hand out the A's."
- Sean Decatur (Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Oberlin College), An Insightful Process That Could Be Improved: "Evaluations from former students would be helpful because sometimes the value of a classroom experience becomes more apparent after time has passed."
- Ellen McCulloch-Lovell (President, Marlboro College), As Long As It’s About More Than Scores: "Student voices, when weighed and considered, influence teaching at places where professors understand that effective teaching is highly valued."
- Stuart Rojstaczer (Former Professor, Duke University; Creator, Grade Inflation Web site): "Student evaluations can be useful when they are divorced from tenure, retention and promotion, and performed anonymously without feedback going to higher-ups."
- Jeff Sandefer (Co-founder, Acton School of Business), Our Motto: Give the Customers What They Want: "Universities that don’t listen to their students are unlikely to survive big changes in higher education -- and frankly, they shouldn’t."
(Hat Tip: Ann Murphy.)
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an effective way to weed out the bad apples.
Bull. Colleges care more about image than results. Publishing will always be more important than teaching, and student evaluations are simply a show.
Posted by: Woody | Sep 19, 2012 12:36:16 PM
http://mauledagain.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html#4691715001966422217 ("Personally, I prefer peer evaluation of teaching, even though several of my colleagues think my course problems, class hypotheticals, and semester exercises are "too hard." Perhaps I should prefer evaluation by practitioners and judges, because most of them tell me I'm being too easy on my students. Considering they're the ones that the students ultimately need to impress, it may be worth looking more closely at their reactions. Their opinions are opinions I value.")
http://mauledagain.blogspot.com/2008_04_01_archive.html#8905235764744146079 ("When I tell my students that the best evaluations of my teaching are those that come from graduates, it's not so much to belittle the students' present evaluation skills as it is to help them appreciate that they're really not in a position yet to decide if the course enhanced or impeded the development of their professional law practice careers.")
Posted by: James Edward Maule | Sep 19, 2012 5:37:17 PM
I just blogged on this very topic. Evaluations should matter more than they do. I have heard several professors state they do not even read student evaluations. Why should they if the evaluations mean nothing and many universities (especially as it relates to the already tenured prof)? If several years of negative evaluations eventually resulted in professors either losing tenure, not getting tenure, or losing their job, they would certainly carry more weight. Of course, putting weight on evaluations needs to take multiple years into consideration to avoid the inevitable scenario where a professor runs into a personality conflict with a student or two in a given class and results in a poor evaluation that really has nothing to do with the professor's classroom performance.
Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Sep 20, 2012 6:53:53 PM