Field of Science

Teaching Evaluations - Filed away

Let me tell you about teaching evaluations. Students are quite good at telling you what they like and what they don't like, and mostly good evaluations correlate negatively and rather strongly with how difficult or how much work is involved, especially in non-majors or introductory courses. This is part of the problem when your supervisors pay too much attention to student evaluations without understanding the dynamic. When faculty are rewarded for good student evaluations, it leads directly and inevitably to pandering. Fortunately the various chairs of our department (seen them come, seen them go) have understood that you don't want to see universally rave evaluations, and of course, you don't want to hear that faculty are rude, inattentive, disorganized, etc. either. Fortunately the Phactor regularly polarizes classes, and fortunately the lazy, poorly motivated ones are out numbered on the order of 3 to 4 to one in my classes, so over all my evaluations are very good, but with enough flack to demonstrate that no pandering is involved. One of the big problems in junior colleges, and even many small colleges, is that student satisfaction is the supreme accomplishment. This is not a recipe that produces a challenging learning environment. But that's the way it goes. Students haven't changed that much over all these years; they still like and dislike the same things, but with some creative approaches, you can optimize the number that you can cajole into working hard enough to really learn something.

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