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Posts tagged ‘course evaluations’

Day 12: When Course Evaluations Actually Improve Teaching

As I’m getting ready for the new semester, I’m thinking about how to organize the course and discuss expectations on the first day of class to help students learn as best I can.  This process gets me thinking about what worked in previous courses as I blogged yesterday.  Today I thought, I should go look at course evaluations, right?  Riiiight.  I like to think that there was a time when people actually wanted to know what students thought about their courses.  So they polled them with various kinds of instruments, including surveys.  With the neoliberal drive to data in K12 and higher education, and the growing suspicion of the academy, course evaluations turned into evidence of success or lack thereof.  Instead of seeing the surveys as an opportunity for faculty to get genuine feedback about how students perceived what was happening in the course, the surveys became a judgment of the faculty.  As evidence of how ridiculous this is, a colleague of mine pointed to a study that shows that students who give positive evaluations went on to do worse in proceeding courses.  Just yesterday, Inside Higher Ed published yet another study on gender bias in course evaluations.  At my previous institution, course evaluations were closely associated with merit pay, and it wasn’t even the course evaluation as a whole, but question 11, something about rating the professor overall.  I have come to believe that if course evaluations’ purpose is to judge faculty, they will not help faculty learn how to be better teachers.  And I want to be a better teacher.   Read more