Thursday, January 12, 2012

Little late lunch-time thirsty

Q. How are we supposed to evaluate proffies' teaching? Which criterion makes sense? Which method is valid?

A. _______________________
[Just say it.]


  1. In I/O psychology, there is something called the 360-degree review, where you evaluate an employee from those under them, those over them, and their peers. In academics, that would mean teaching evaluations from students, faculty peers, and maybe deans or full professors. For teaching focused unis, this might be a useful endeavor (although labor intensive).

    At research universities though, who cares? As a graduate student, I regularly threw the teaching evaluation forms in the trash rather than fill them out. The R1 silverbacks I took classes from had been teaching using the same dusty handouts and articles since they started in 1975. Student teaching evaluations were really of no consequence in terms of promotion ("What's after full professor?") or salary ("Your teaching evaluations were far too low this year! As punishment, you only get a 2% raise on your 125K salary.").

  2. Bubba doesn't live in a trailer, you asshole. He lives out under the open sky. He spends the day riding the trails and helping various needy widow wimmen, mending fences and chasing stray calves. Later, after a supper of hard tack and beans prepared in an old iron pot suspended over a campfire, he shares his last apple with his horse, Renegade. Then, with a rock for a pillow, he sleeps the sleep of the just.

    Get your facts straight, jerk.

  3. Stella! Watch your language!

    I feel that the use of dice to choose between various canned answers is the correct way to evaluate teachers. Life is a crap shoot, isn't it?

  4. At the place where I used to teach, the following might be used:

    1. Threaten to observe instructor in question, which is to be considered a severe disciplinary action.

    2. Stay as far away as possible if instructor welcomes such observations.

    3. Gather anonymous student comments, because such comments will always be truthful, accurate, and correct.

    4. Disregard any favourable comments.

    5. Elevate any negative comments into an impending crisis without any further investigation, regardless how trivial they are.

    6. Proceed to make instructor's life as miserable as possible.

    1. Except for items 1 and 2, I think we used to work at the same place.

  5. My physics department uses peer visits, in which we fill out a standardized form we developed together, and voted on. It's definitely more work, since our department is small (9 tenured or tt, 3 full-time instructors who don't do research, and 2 part-time, formerly tenured deadwood now mercifully in the early retirement program). Still, I think it works pretty well, most of the time. Of course our department is collegial: while we don't always agree with each other about everything, we have no assholes (sorry, Suzy), aside from the deadwood.

    Ten years ago, when the deadwood was in power, we used the model described by i_escaped_from_academe. We were cured of it by our "happy fun" instructor, since let go ostensibly because of budget cuts. It was the only way we could have let him go, because his student evaluations were stellar. His students loved his "happy fun" exercises, and how he let them out of class early every day, and how much of the class time was spent watching movies. Those of us unfortunate to get his students in subsequent classes noticed they didn't know doodley-squat. Much better are our other, tougher instructors, who don't get quite as good student evaluations, but we've had several department chairs in a row now (I am honored to be the latest) who are willing to stick up for them.

    1. Bubba can hold the lantern, while Stelnikov and I hammer stakes through the hearts of the deadwood. Bubba should also bring along a Bible: he can get one from the Baptist church near him, they'll have one to spare.

  6. You have it all wrong. Y'all are old fashioned. Here's what you do, at least in the online world:

    - A secret committee, or some unnamed individual in power, perhaps one of the assessment geniuses in administration, develops a catalog of clearly quantifiable criteria as a checklist. Most of the items are up/down, yes/no ("Instructor uses audio-visual media in the classroom", "Instructor has the Big Corporate Online University dropout policy on the syllabus", "Instructor's responses are posted within the two day response limit", "Instructor responses are at least 300 words in length", etc.)

    - Then, every quarter, one course per instructor is selected (by some unknown person or machine).

    - The instructor submits a checklist with that course in mind.

    - An auditor, who presumably does dozens of these things each quarter and who is not necessarily trained in the field, submits the checklist for the same class.

    - The department chair investigates by e-mail exchange and visiting the online classroom any undesirable "No" responses or anomalies.

    The results of these audits are a perfect reflection of how well you teach. It is a marvelous system. Y'all should try it. I'm sure it could be used in the traditional classroom:

    "Instructor wears tie with school logo."

    "Instructor smiles four or more times per hour of contact time."

    "Pop quizzes are preceded by a review session conducted by the instructor."

    "Instructor is bubbly and just sparkles when talking about his or her field of study, engaging student interest."

    "Instructor draws attention to the colored boxes in the $150 textbook."

    "Instructor power point slides transition with an exciting variety of page-turn animation options."


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