Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Teaching Students to Evaluate Us Better

I’ll admit it: I like my students, and I want them to like me, too. Such is the humiliating plight of just about every grad instructor, adjunct, and professor I know. Our professional pride -- and, for many, our professional survival -- now hinges in part on what our students have to say about us at the end of the term. The reason they get asked, and the reason we listen, is that they know something we don’t. As the chief witnesses to our teaching, our students are often better equipped than anyone else, including ourselves, to know how we’re doing and what we can do better. Alas, when the vessels of this precious knowledge sit down to fill out their end-of-course surveys, far too few of them realize they are performing a sacrament of university life. Based on the evaluations I’ve read (of other instructors, naturally), students are shockingly cavalier in the opinions they express, and the results don’t amount to much. On the whole, student evaluations are a notoriously poor gauge of "teaching effectiveness," and they reflect some of the ugliest parts of university culture. Study after study finds that women, non-white instructors, and non-native English speakers have a harder time getting respect from students in these surveys. On top of all that, student evaluations show a depressing pattern of actually punishing instructors for their commitment to student learning and academic integrity. (Check it out here and here, and let the chills run down your spine.)
Read Teaching Students to Evaluate Us Better

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