Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Asking students about teaching

Here's another installment (see here for link to earlier one) on the effectiveness of student teaching evaluations in discerning effective teaching.  It seems that the relation between the two are tenuous. This does not imply that such evaluations are without merit. As the linked to post notes: "Students are arguable in the best position to judge certain aspects of teaching that contribute to effectiveness, such as clarity, pace, legibility audibility...". However, teaching evaluations may well track something else, e.g. grade expectations, enjoyment, physical attractiveness, age, ethnicity. Given the increasing centrality of student questionnaires in faculty evaluation and course restructuring it would be nice to have indices that measure what we want them to.  I confess to being skeptical that such measures are easy to devise. It seems pretty clear that what we have in place is wanting.


  1. To what extent is a student really able to gauge his/her learning outcome. A student may hate a particular class, and say so on evaluation sheets, not realizing at that moment how the frustrating and confusing aspects of the learning process have gotten him/her to a higher level of thinking. Clarity, such an overrated term...

  2. A very odd feature of the whole thing is that we as a profession have rolled over without a murmur to be subjected to an evaluation methodology that would struggle to get a passing grade in any methodology course in any reputable university; -30 for grossly nonrandom samples, -30 for prima facie invalid indicators with no attempt to justify them, and we're down to 40 already.

    No wonder so many politicians basically want to shut down universities ASAP.