Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Will Trying New Teaching Techniques Tank My Student Evaluations?

Inside Higher Ed, Will Trying New Teaching Techniques Tank My Evaluations?:

Ask a group of faculty members why they're wary of experimenting with new ways of teaching, and they're likely to assert that trying new things — especially if they misfire — can bring down their student evaluation numbers, and in turn hurt their chances for tenure or promotion.

Charles R. Henderson, a professor of physics education and co-founder of Western Michigan University's Center for Research on Instructional Change in Postsecondary Education, hears that worry frequently as he visits campuses encouraging the use of active learning techniques and other alternatives to lecturing.

"It's a huge thing that everybody cites and believes is true, even though I'm not aware of any data to support it," Henderson says. "Usually what happens is that a professor thinks that because there are one or two students who complain about" a change in how the professor teaches, "the rest of the class must feel that way, too."

That fear can be discouraging, Henderson concedes, given the prominent role that many colleges continue to give to student evaluations of teaching in assessing professors. While some institutions have begun to de-emphasize student evaluations in their tenure and promotion processes, citing research showing mounting evidence of bias, they remain a force. ...

Charles Henderson (Western Michigan), Raquib Khan (Western Michigan) & Melissa Dancy (Colorado), Will My Student Evaluations Decrease If I Adopt an Active Learning Instructional Strategy?, 86 Am. J. Physics ___ (2018):

College instructors are often afraid to use active learning instructional strategies because they fear that students may complain and/or give them lower evaluations of teaching. In this paper we present data from a survey of 431 physics instructors who had attended the Physics and Astronomy New Faculty Workshop and attempted to incorporate active learning into their introductory course. Nearly half of respondents (48%) felt that their student evaluations increased, one-third (32%) felt that their student evaluations had not been impacted, and onefifth (20%) felt that their student evaluations decreased. Thus, contrary to common fears, for these instructors the most likely result from the incorporation of active learning was an increase in student evaluations.

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Student evaluations give incentives to avoid risk, because a few 2's outweigh lots of 10's, when the average is 8.5.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Sep 26, 2018 7:14:23 PM