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Any other College Profs Here? Warning: Rant ahead


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I gave out my evaluations to one of my classes today. This is a relatively recent development in education wherein students fill out a Scantron form rating the professors and write comments about them. (In bad years, some of these comments can very personal.) Mood is extremely important in evaluations, so I make sure to give them food (as I often do on other days).Also, I always precede the evals with an exciting review. My class involves a lot of dry formulas, so I show them videos that discuss real studies and ask them "Which technique do you use?" But wouldn't you know it, I had the wrong technique header on one of them. And part of my hair fell out of its bun, which almost never happens!

 

This is the class that likes me the most, so if any of the evals should turn out well. it should be this one. Last year's evals came out fantastic, and I hope this year's come out even close to that level. I'm definitely a better teacher than I was then. I got a lot of nice emails recently saying I'm a great prof, and if the evals reflect that a bit, I'll do ok.

 

But there's something students don't understand about this system: In the end, it ends up screwing them. One of the main things an education should provide, IMO, is the ability to think on your feet. Cold calling really helps that. But the evals create pressure not to cold call or otherwise make the students anxious in any way. (I learned that after getting pummeled in the first year I decided to cold call. Students wrote that they didn't look forward to coming to class. I stopped cold calling, and my scores improved dramatically.) Then the students get to the work world, and they're shocked when the boss asks them a question in a meeting without telling them in advance.

 

I have 2 classes tomorrow and will hand out the evals to them too. I have a week left after that, and I can just teach as best I can without worrying.

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

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I so empathize with you. One thing I love about being a tenured full professor in a university that currently does not have merit pay is that I don't have to worry about them any more. As a mater of fact, I haven't read them for a couple of years! I love my job, do it well, and call on students randomly all the time. It does keep them on their toes. And they seem to like coming to class, anyway.

 

I always had my evals administered as early as possible so I could relax and enjoy the rest of the semester without feeling like there were two committees looking over my shoulder.

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I gave out my evaluations to one of my classes today. This is a relatively recent development in education wherein students fill out a Scantron form rating the professors and write comments about them. (In bad years, some of these comments can very personal.) Mood is extremely important in evaluations, so I make sure to give them food (as I often do on other days).Also, I always precede the evals with an exciting review. My class involves a lot of dry formulas, so I show them videos that discuss real studies and ask them "Which technique do you use?" But wouldn't you know it, I had the wrong technique header on one of them. And part of my hair fell out of its bun, which almost never happens!

 

This is the class that likes me the most, so if any of the evals should turn out well. it should be this one. Last year's evals came out fantastic, and I hope this year's come out even close to that level. I'm definitely a better teacher than I was then. I got a lot of nice emails recently saying I'm a great prof, and if the evals reflect that a bit, I'll do ok.

 

But there's something students don't understand about this system: In the end, it ends up screwing them. One of the main things an education should provide, IMO, is the ability to think on your feet. Cold calling really helps that. But the evals create pressure not to cold call or otherwise make the students anxious in any way. (I learned that after getting pummeled in the first year I decided to cold call. Students wrote that they didn't look forward to coming to class. I stopped cold calling, and my scores improved dramatically.) Then the students get to the work world, and they're shocked when the boss asks them a question in a meeting without telling them in advance.

 

I have 2 classes tomorrow and will hand out the evals to them too. I have a week left after that, and I can just teach as best I can without worrying.

 

None of my profs fed me! :mad:

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I went to my biology class once in tux. The TA had told me I'd get an A if I did it.

 

Can you explain why "merit pay" is linked to student performance? What of the Appalachian Back-waters (I'm being generous), such as where my sister teaches, where the students do NOT want to learn, do NOT want to participate in class, and, at best, aspire to working at McDonald's.

 

Please return to your cold calls, FF, if you can. Get the students used to them. Maybe just in the second half of the course / year.

 

"this above all: to thine own self be true,

and then it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man." - W. Shakespeare, Hamlet. ["Pelonius' Advice to Laertes"]

Do not try to the patience of Dragons, for you are Crunchy and good with Ketchup.

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Believe it or not, I just this minute finished reading four dozen essays by students about whether teachers should be evaluated by their students or their peers (I am not their teacher), and EVERY ONE of them thought that students were a better judge of a teacher's effectiveness than peers were. Some of the reasoning was logical and perceptive, but much of it was solipsistic and naive.

 

There is no easy answer to this one. I have designed academic evaluation systems, I have done evaluations of junior faculty, I have been evaluated by students, and I know all the problems involved in evaluation. I believe that teachers should be evaluated, but I don't think there is any one fail-safe system, in terms of either fairness or accuracy, yet every administrator and bureaucrat is certain that there is one, and he knows what it is. I hope your institution is not one that depends solely on student evaluations, and I feel sorry for any teacher caught in the current mania for evaluating teachers solely on their students' grades on standardized tests--at least one of the essays did mention the possibility that one lucky teacher might simply have smarter or more motivated students than a better teacher.

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I admit that this is one topic I never expected to come up on this particular site. But why not? It is a discussion forum connected to a site which features client reviews.

 

My university uses a mix of student evaluations, peer evaluations, close evaluation of syllabi, assignments, graded work, etc., in evaluating teaching. Where the evaluations can be helpful is when a large number of students in more than one class make consistent/similar complaints or praises: consistent lateness to class, underpreparation, not returning assignments in a timely manner, rudeness to assistants, etc., on the complaint side. Going out of the way to give extra help, facilitating great discussions, challenging students to think in a new way, etc., on the positive side.

 

I have to say, though, that students tend to respond well to "tough but fair" demanding teachers. I've been a review committee and read the glowing evaluations of a teacher whose workload students constantly complain about. When I read my own evaluations, I often find a valuable observation or suggestion, and that feedback from students has helped me grow.

 

It seems obvious to me that the best evaluation systems combine student input, peer observation, and assessment of teaching materials, including statements of teaching philosophy and narratives discussing learning goals and teaching methodology.

 

And thank God I do not teach in a public school where I'm evaluated on how well my students do on standardized tests!

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Zapped, it's great to hear that you're taking advantage of your tenured position to do the right thing. Your students will be grateful later on.

 

 

None of my profs fed me! :mad:

 

Come take my class!

 

 

I went to my biology class once in tux. The TA had told me I'd get an A if I did it.

 

Can you explain why "merit pay" is linked to student performance? What of the Appalachian Back-waters (I'm being generous), such as where my sister teaches, where the students do NOT want to learn, do NOT want to participate in class, and, at best, aspire to working at McDonald's. "Pelonius' Advice to Laertes"

 

Oh, I tried it for a full semester. They reamed me. I then asked around, and everyone told me they don't call call because it makes the students uncomfortable and anxious (as they wrote on the evals). If I were tenured, I'd do it. But at this point, I have to keep the customer satisfied.

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

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Believe it or not, I just this minute finished reading four dozen essays by students about whether teachers should be evaluated by their students or their peers (I am not their teacher), and EVERY ONE of them thought that students were a better judge of a teacher's effectiveness than peers were. Some of the reasoning was logical and perceptive, but much of it was solipsistic and naive.

 

There is no easy answer to this one. I have designed academic evaluation systems, I have done evaluations of junior faculty, I have been evaluated by students, and I know all the problems involved in evaluation. I believe that teachers should be evaluated, but I don't think there is any one fail-safe system, in terms of either fairness or accuracy, yet every administrator and bureaucrat is certain that there is one, and he knows what it is. I hope your institution is not one that depends solely on student evaluations, and I feel sorry for any teacher caught in the current mania for evaluating teachers solely on their students' grades on standardized tests--at least one of the essays did mention the possibility that one lucky teacher might simply have smarter or more motivated students than a better teacher.

 

What a coinkydink! Peer and student evals are pretty heavily correlated, but things like cold calling can cause a gap between them.

 

Peer evals are far from perfect. I've never been evaluated that way, but politics would likely play a big role. At least with student evals, you don't have all eggs in one basket and know when the evaluation is coming. Peer evals, from what I understand, are done unannounced, and the nerves could throw me off.

 

As for evaluating based on standardized tests (or other "outcome measures"), ugh.

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

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I admit that this is one topic I never expected to come up on this particular site. But why not? It is a discussion forum connected to a site which features client reviews.

 

My university uses a mix of student evaluations, peer evaluations, close evaluation of syllabi, assignments, graded work, etc., in evaluating teaching. Where the evaluations can be helpful is when a large number of students in more than one class make consistent/similar complaints or praises: consistent lateness to class, underpreparation, not returning assignments in a timely manner, rudeness to assistants, etc., on the complaint side. Going out of the way to give extra help, facilitating great discussions, challenging students to think in a new way, etc., on the positive side.

 

I have to say, though, that students tend to respond well to "tough but fair" demanding teachers. I've been a review committee and read the glowing evaluations of a teacher whose workload students constantly complain about. When I read my own evaluations, I often find a valuable observation or suggestion, and that feedback from students has helped me grow.

 

It seems obvious to me that the best evaluation systems combine student input, peer observation, and assessment of teaching materials, including statements of teaching philosophy and narratives discussing learning goals and teaching methodology.

 

And thank God I do not teach in a public school where I'm evaluated on how well my students do on standardized tests!

 

I'm not one to cry "sexism" but, from what I hear, students are far more tolerant of "tough but fair" in male professors. That's not because the students are trying to be sexist; it's because men just appear more "professorly." With women, they think "Who does she think she is?"

 

One of the "tough but fair" male profs actually told me that if he were a woman, he'd be called a bitch. I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule.

 

Also, my course is one of the toughest at the school; I may be fluffy, but my class certainly isn't. So because "student friendly" helps balance that off.

 

I have to say, though, that students tend to respond well to "tough but fair" demanding teachers. I've been a review committee and read the glowing evaluations of a teacher whose workload students constantly complain about. When I read my own evaluations, I often find a valuable observation or suggestion, and that feedback from students has helped me grow.

 

Oh, some comments have DEFINITELY made me a better teacher; in fact, they're partially responsible for my big improvement between years 2 and 3. However, I agree: Using a mixture of methods (peer + student) would be better than letting students decide the whole thing.

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

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Where I teach, peer evaluations are scheduled. Drop in observations would be terrifying! The downside is that you know you are seeing someone at her or his most prepared and on the very best possible behavior. On the other hand, you know how well they can teach, and if there are problems when they are being observed, you know they are genuine issues.

 

Meanwhile, just came across this on FB: a teacher's letter of resignation, explaining "my profession no longer exists." http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/06/teachers-resignation-letter-my-profession-no-longer-exists/

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Peer evals, from what I understand, are done unannounced, and the nerves could throw me off.

 

A

 

I never did "gotcha" peer evals. I believed in discussing with the teacher what he/she planned to do in the class and why, before I observed it, and I always took it for granted that the teacher would probably be somewhat stiffer than usual in an observed situation. After the class was over, I then met with the teacher to hear his/her reactions to what had happened in the class; if the teacher felt that the class meeting was not representative of what normally happened in his/her idea of a successful meeting, I was usually willing to do a follow-up observation. I also paid as much attention to observing the students as the teacher, since one can learn as much about the students' attitude toward the teacher from watching them as from listening to what they say or write about the teacher and the class dynamic.

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But there's something students don't understand about this system: In the end, it ends up screwing them. One of the main things an education should provide, IMO, is the ability to think on your feet. Cold calling really helps that. But the evals create pressure not to cold call or otherwise make the students anxious in any way. (I learned that after getting pummeled in the first year I decided to cold call. Students wrote that they didn't look forward to coming to class. I stopped cold calling, and my scores improved dramatically.) Then the students get to the work world, and they're shocked when the boss asks them a question in a meeting without telling them in advance.

 

Since I am a student right now, I want to respond to cold calling. To me, it depends on the subject and the amount of perparation for each class. If a professor's course requires a great deal of reading for example, it's inevitable that some students will skip some of the reading occasionally because of papers/exams in other courses. Cold calling is appropriate for students who never speak, or those who are always prepared to answer. For everyone else (very good or good students), I believe they are right to be upset by cold calling especially in the middle of the semester when the workload is very heavy..

 

I worked many years before I started taking courses upon retirement. I can not think of one instance where going through the experience of cold calling made any difference at work. However, it could make a huge difference in job interviews.

 

Again, there are fairly general comments because I do not know what you teach, or how much pre-class work is needed.

 

To Zapped, I doubt your students like you as much as you believe --- unless everyone gets an A.

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I worked many years before I started taking courses upon retirement. I can not think of one instance where going through the experience of cold calling made any difference at work. However, it could make a huge difference in job interviews.

 

I stand corrected. I was only in the corporate world for a few years, but my impression is that bosses sometimes ask "What do you think of this strategy, John?"

 

If that's not the case, then cold calling (in my discipline at least) is less useful than I thought.

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

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Since I am a student right now, I want to respond to cold calling. To me, it depends on the subject and the amount of perparation for each class. If a professor's course requires a great deal of reading for example, it's inevitable that some students will skip some of the reading occasionally because of papers/exams in other courses. Cold calling is appropriate for students who never speak, or those who are always prepared to answer. For everyone else (very good or good students), I believe they are right to be upset by cold calling especially in the middle of the semester when the workload is very heavy..

 

The problem is that many student's do little if any of the reading until the exam, according to my anonymous mid-semester evaluation (of themselves and me). So instead of cold calling, I increased the number of quizzes.

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

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I was the director of a medical residency program and did daily rounds with the residents and sometimes beside rounds. I always did cold calls. I would try to make the questions open ended and as a result, a bit of thought was all that was needed to give a reasonable answer. If you are cold calling and there is a definitive answer, even the best student may be stumped and embarrassed by a cold call. As a student, I hated to speak in front of my peers, but ultimately I had to get over it and so it will be that your students will need to get over it. Ultimately, the best evaluation of how you are doing is likely to be your own. I always knew when I had a particular good class and the clunkers were slso painfully obvious.

I have never seen a purplekow :)

I hope I never see one ;)

But I can tell you this and how I would rather see than be one :D

 

Help there is a purplekow in my mirror :eek:

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The problem is that many student's do little if any of the reading until the exam' date=' according to my anonymous mid-semester evaluation (of themselves and me). So instead of cold calling, I increased the number of quizzes.[/quote']

 

I take back what I wrote last night. Yes, quizzes and even a little cold calling is exactly right for that situation.

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Done with evals! As I mentioned, I spend a lot of time helping students all semester, before and after evaluations. But there's only a week left in the semester, and the worrying is over. Guess what I'm doing right now?

 

http://www.google.com/imgres?rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1440&bih=737&tbm=isch&tbnid=wjuf5ZmvHHDZAM:&imgrefurl=http://meowgifs.com/1625&docid=fVAbcGwHObgynM&imgurl=http://meowgifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/cricket-cute-persian-kitten.gif&w=360&h=270&ei=Zz6VUr--G6nYyQHb7IGoCA&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:8,s:0,i:103&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=186&tbnw=259&start=0&ndsp=15&tx=86&ty=98http://25.media.tumblr.com/01a0f3306e24be3e8901b7909aaabec8/tumblr_ml5azavQKz1qcku8io1_250.jpg

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

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Done with evals! As I mentioned, I spend a lot of time helping students all semester, before and after evaluations. But there's only a week left in the semester, and the worrying is over. Guess what I'm doing right now?

 

http://www.google.com/imgres?rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1440&bih=737&tbm=isch&tbnid=wjuf5ZmvHHDZAM:&imgrefurl=http://meowgifs.com/1625&docid=fVAbcGwHObgynM&imgurl=http://meowgifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/cricket-cute-persian-kitten.gif&w=360&h=270&ei=Zz6VUr--G6nYyQHb7IGoCA&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:8,s:0,i:103&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=186&tbnw=259&start=0&ndsp=15&tx=86&ty=98http://25.media.tumblr.com/01a0f3306e24be3e8901b7909aaabec8/tumblr_ml5azavQKz1qcku8io1_250.jpg

 

Great news! My cat is almost that color, just a little darker.

 

My professor is leaving for home in Cape Town before the last two classes, Dec 5 and 10. Her mother is sick, so the TA is teaching. We have to fill out an evaluation on the computer for each course before receiving final grades. Fool proof...because I have not found a way around it.

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As a student, I liked the professors who called on everyone in small seminars or randomly called on people in the larger classes. I found that it helped weed out the less serious students. I hated the classes where the professor just stood in front of the class lecturing the whole time without any element of class participation. I remember describing one such law school professor as soporific in an evaluation. Give me the Socratic method any day!

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Quite a while after finishing college, I realized that I had always thought about it all wrong. During college, I had paid good money to people to provide me with information and knowledge. I was the customer, and the professors were paid, by me and my fellow students, to provide a service... to educate us. I'm not trying to say that it wasn't our responsibility to learn, but our higher education system seems to ignore the concept of who is the customer and who is the service provider. Students are generally paying a lot of money to educational institutions for their services, and yet seem to believe that they are at the mercy of educators. It is a pity if students pay thousands of dollars for classes that they don't pay attention to, and I know that happens, but it is a crime when professors fail to provide any educational service to their clients/students and expect the students to meet whatever arbitrary requirements they dream up, without regard to the ultimate value they are providing. The students are ultimately the customer. I'll acknowledge that students often need to be pushed to do their best, but they're are paying the bills, and aren't working for the professors.

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Quite a while after finishing college, I realized that I had always thought about it all wrong. During college, I had paid good money to people to provide me with information and knowledge. I was the customer, and the professors were paid, by me and my fellow students, to provide a service... to educate us. I'm not trying to say that it wasn't our responsibility to learn, but our higher education system seems to ignore the concept of who is the customer and who is the service provider. Students are generally paying a lot of money to educational institutions for their services, and yet seem to believe that they are at the mercy of educators. It is a pity if students pay thousands of dollars for classes that they don't pay attention to, and I know that happens, but it is a crime when professors fail to provide any educational service to their clients/students and expect the students to meet whatever arbitrary requirements they dream up, without regard to the ultimate value they are providing. The students are ultimately the customer. I'll acknowledge that students often need to be pushed to do their best, but they're are paying the bills, and aren't working for the professors.

 

The professors and the university are providing a service for which the students are willing to pay. The service is not to educate the students, but rather to offer the students an education. The students are brought to a banquet and shown the food and it is explained to them how the food is prepared and how they might best enjoy the food. They are not sitting in a high chair to be force fed strained peas yelling "Feed me Feed me" like a voracious plant from outer space nor are they sitting petulantly while having a game of airplane in the hangar played for them so that they might deign to take a bite. They come as adults wishing to partake of a meal and have the right to expect the meal to be well prepared.

The bargain here is: The univeristy will show the students a path, They will be guided along that path should the students, choose to travel down that path. If the students believe that this path takes them somewhere worthwhile, then they may please pay the fee and come along. The professors will show the students the pitfalls and the beauty of this path. The professors will lead and the students shall follow and ultimately both will benefit from the interaction.

The students get to choose the path they wish to follow but they do not get to dictate the details of the journey. The students may choose to ignore the guidance of the professors. They may choose to be lazy or to deviate off. The professors owe the students leadership and guidance but they are not obligated to do that in a way that is pleasing to each individual student, only in a way that ultimately gives each student the opportunity to successfully complete the path. The professors are guides, not mules carrying passengers.

I have never seen a purplekow :)

I hope I never see one ;)

But I can tell you this and how I would rather see than be one :D

 

Help there is a purplekow in my mirror :eek:

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Allow me to ask the professors here...when it comes down to it, what is valued more by the university, being a good teacher or bringing in money, recognition, etc through grants, research, publishing, etc? Not that they are mutually exclusive, but I have always perceived (and very possibly incorrectly) that what really matters is the latter. Comments?

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