Wednesday, September 19, 2012
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.)