Field of Science

Student Evaluations - Yawn.

Last semester's teaching evaluations arrived yesterday and the Phactor filed them, unread, along with all the rest. You see, student evaluations of my teaching have been drearily similar semester to semester for years, and the whiny tone with which students complain is always depressing. My courses demand considerable effort, and student effort, ranging across a couple of orders of magnitude is the single biggest determinate of success, both now and in the future. Hard-working students find my classes easy enough, but slackers hang themselves with the all too ample rope provided. So as you might easily guess, my student evaluations are a mixed bag that generally parallels the diverse work-ethics of the students in my classes. As opposed to current students, enough feedback returns from students from one to ten years post-graduation saying that while my classes were hard in the effort required sense, they found themselves very well prepared and found my classes' usefulness enduring. That's more than enough justification for ignoring recent whines.
So imagine what someone has discovered? ""Hard" instructors seem to do better at preparing students for upper-level work, even though the grades may be lower and student-evaluation scores weaker in those classes." Duh! And guess who the "hard" instructors were? Oh yeah, permanent senior faculty who aren't worried about evaluations deciding their future employment! Fortunately my bosses have never placed an over reliance on student evaluations, but at institutions where student evaluations reign supreme you select for easy, sometimes even pandering instructors, except for some very very few faculty who can be both hard and popular. This is the great failing of junior colleges; faculty careers live or die based upon whether you please your students. Lincolnland has a great many junior colleges and their graduates show up in my classes as 3d year students, and about 50% still have poor study skills and poor work ethics, so they sort themselves out quickly even though most sport quite good grade averages from their junior college. This is also a failing at uber-elite institutions where you cannot fail. Give an uber-elite student for whom admission was their last academic hurdle a C, even for no effort at all, and mommy & daddy dearest who pay that awesome tuition initiate the cascade of complaint that ends up with a dressing down of the presumptuous faculty member, who had better have tenure. At our great public institutions students are free to fail, and that's why the grades of our top students actually mean something. Oh, even our institution has it's soft underbelly of disgraceful grading (8 out of every 10 students in every single course in music get As!). Sure, never a sour note. Unfortunately our current provost would be better suited for work at a junior college, so one must always be on guard. One day all of that paper filed away will be recycled as garden mulch and smart money says the plants will grow great.

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