Monday, October 24, 2011

Who Wants to Be Evaluated by Students?

Well, interestingly, I'll be passing out my own student evaluation forms next week, as part of my post-tenure review cycle. This happens every three years after the fourth year of employment (and the final probationary evaluation, when one is granted tenure). I don't mind them at all. I get decent reviews, and it's my political science colleagues who'll be using them to do a brief write up for their post-tenure committee reports. I imagine the dean and higher ups in the administration might be interested in them, but I doubt they do anything more than accept the recommendations from the department committees. The buzz on campus, however, is the latest union negotiations with the college over "student learning outcomes," which if implemented college-wide, could be used in evaluating faculty. (These SLOs could be combined with student evaluations in way way or another.) Needless to say the union's not falling in line for this. So many factors (outside of the classroom) determine student success that using SLOs in evaluating faculty would be seriously flawed, and worse, prone to really awful abuse if faculty retention decisions are made with them. I mention all of this as background for this piece at Minding the Campus, "Who Wants to Be Evaluated by Students?" Read the whole thing at the link, and here's this from The Barrister, at Maggie's Farm:
The notion that students evaluate profs as if school were American Idol seems perverted to me. School is not infotainment. I can be an entertaining speaker and did some litigation in my distant past, but I would never teach where my career, even in part, depended on student evaluations. When teaching, I like to be a demanding SOB, intolerant of anything short of excellence and keeping people on their toes. In the end, people are thankful for my demanding attitude.
RELATED: One of my favorite articles on this, "Something Wrong in Our Schools? Let's Blame Teachers."


Bruce Hall said...

Evaluating teachers is a difficult prospect because:
1. student capabilities are not randomly distributed;
2. presenting facts is different from establishing understanding;
3. objective measures tend to result in "teaching to the test."

Student evaluations tend to focus on how difficult it is to get a good grade rather than how effective the teacher is in providing excellent instruction.

Perhaps teachers should not test their own students. Perhaps students should be evaluated by other teachers. Of course, this is more easily accomplished at the elementary and high school level. As for college teachers, perhaps there needs to be a system of "secret shoppers."