Why your students shouldn’t like you.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed just reported a study of teaching effectiveness that focused on students’ performance in later classes. This ‘sequence’ view of performance had interesting implications for tenure and student evaluations.

Students who took Calc I from a tenured instructor performed better when later taking Calc II. Is it just that more experienced instructors are more effective? Not necessarily — though authors speculate that perhaps less experienced instructors ‘teach to the test.’ They also found:

The more students liked their Calculus I section, the less likely they were (all else equal) to earn strong grades in the follow-up courses.  The same pattern held even when the scholars looked only at the single question on the course-evaluation form that asked students how much they had learned in Calculus I.  Students, this study suggests, are not always accurate judges of how much progress they have made.

Perhaps tenure decisions should favor candidates with BAD student evaluations?

One Measure of a Professor

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One Response to Why your students shouldn’t like you.

  1. Kelli Barr says:

    I rather liked this point:

    “In fact, Mr. Weinberg says, student evaluation scores are so weakly related to learning that it is a serious error for colleges to use those evaluations as the primary tool for judging faculty members.”

    In spite of the fact that student evaluations are the norm for assessing educational quality, there is no reason we shouldn’t be investigating better ways to assess educational quality, even if these alternatives take more time and seem more indirect.

    I am reminded of standardized testing, that even though experts agree that their use and importance are overstated by institutions (and easily gamed both by students and by private entities on which schools rely for grading) the Obama administration is calling for more widespread and frequent standardized testing to serve as benchmarks for the America COMPETES Act. With the signing of this legislation, there are no attempts or recommendations to investigate alternative avenues for assessing educational quality that may actually give a better account.

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