Monday, January 23, 2012

Ransoming Student Grades for Evals

Well, this is a new one. Just got an e-mail from the administration about the new student evaluation policy, and I can't decide if it's better or worse than the old one.

For starters, student evals are now done online, not in class on Scantrons that a suck-up carries to the Registrar's office afterwards.

This is better because: I'm encouraged to go online and add my own questions to the evaluation, and I can actually ask the students a relevant thing or two that'll help me teach the course in the future.

This is worse because: Whatever anonymity the students previously enjoyed, it now becomes total, and it may even feel more anonymous than it is because there's a computer involved. So more students will feel free to get nasty without worrying whether their handwriting is recognizable. Even the students who like me can now write their evals while drunk, which they'd probably do just to say they'd done it.

Then there's this other little change. From now on, students can't know their grades until they submit an eval. If they submit one, they find out their grade right away (or as soon as grades are normally released). If not, they can't know how they did in the class until an additional three weeks have passed.

This is better because: More students will likely fill out evals.

This is worse because: More students will likely fill out evals. (And they'll now do it spitefully, with a passive-aggressive bone to pick with the administration. Good chance they'll take it out on me.)

So I don't know. As my obstetrician asks every time he changes the little lens thingy, is this better, or worse?

20 comments:

  1. I suspect you don't mean 'obstetrician'. (Er...I hope you don't.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's good, I think. Students that are pissed at you are somewhat likely to fill out an eval. Some of them are too lazy to do HW and might not, but remember they are from the entitlement generation. They think it should be handed to them on a platter. When eval time rolls around, they think they get to grade the teacher and relish it.
    The students that love you or learn a lot might fill out an eval, but the ones that come to class, do the work but are indifferent won't. This skews results negatively. The silent ones will generally give fairly positive reviews.
    This also helps if your institution thinks that the NUMBER of students that do evals reflects on you. I have been told that not enough fill out evals. That if I were a better professor, they would do it. BULL! You have to give them an incentive to do anything.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, dear! That's annoying to see the trend growing. My school has been doing this for four or five years. Those who don't want to do evals just click their way through them with n/a, so it's the same as before. One student wrote "Jesus love me" in every comment space one year. So it still ends up being a spectrum of those who really like or hate you commenting... about as useful as before.

    PS My obstetrician has never asked that, but perhaps I'm not requesting the right thing...

    ReplyDelete
  4. My uni does this, too. And like Cynic noted previously, most of the students know they just need to fill out one question in order for the eval to "count" and for them to get their grades. So while it looks like I have about 65% response rate, I really don't. We also have an official "opt out" button, a concession, I believe, to students who felt they were being forced to do the eval in the first place. This means that your 65% response rate includes official opt outs, the one question responders, and the few students who care to leave you an eval at all.

    But, to my mind, all of this is made more or less moot since many faculty are encouraged to use the Blackboard gradebook which, in theory, would contain all grades except the final. So the threat of not getting the grades ASAP for not doing the eval...not really a threat?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent point. To combat this, we were told to "mute" our grades so students cannot see them anymore. That just led to emails from desperate students asking their grades.

      Delete
    2. I suppose this is where I should make some comment on the uselessness of "withholding grades" since students should be able to average their own grades using papers that have been returned and...dare I say it??...math!

      Delete
  5. We don't force them to do the evals like this, but we did switch to online ones recently. Stupid move - about 25% of students complete the evals and their usefulness has reduced even further since now the *only* people who complete them are the ones who either loved or hated you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're in the same boat, Stew. Our response rate was somewhat better than yours allegedly (in the 30% range), but my own classes each got 4-5 responses apiece out of numbers that should have been in the mid-20s. We tried bribing them with incentives to take the survey. Some departments actually had faculty pool their money to get really nice prizes so their students would fill them out. Others marched their campus courses to computer labs and made them do the survey during class time just as they would've during paper days. I think those efforts skewed the results. We simply don't have the facilities available for everyone to be able to do that.

      Meanwhile, sister college down the interstate has the mandatory eval for grades rule. The students there know to expect it and even take pride in telling the proffie they've done it on time. It's a fairly new college, so it's been part of their culture from Day One.

      Delete
  6. Oh crap! Ophthalmologist! Ophthalmologist!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Made my day, even before the graphic went up.

      Delete
  7. Oh crap! Ophthalmologist! Ophthalmologist!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Of our schools that use the online eval system, they get about a 50% response rate. Paper evals get near 100% since they hand them out before the final exam so except for a few jokers who just leave them blank or write nonsense, the majority of the students fill out the paper versions. The down side to online evals is that for some reason, our vendor insists the evals have to be filled out weeks before the end of the semester - slightly after midterms, actually. So, as a student (also an employee, although that's not relevant), I have to evaluate a course before it's even 3/4 finished. I'd rather wait until the last lecture, but whatev, I do it anyway. I don't know if they hold up the grades as I've never not filled out an eval when I receive the automated e-mail alert. The school for which I happen to work uses the paper evals, but that means that no one can really assess the evaluations, short of sitting in an office flipping through each sheet. For a brief time we had student workers manually entering the data from the paper evaluations into a database, and the results were publicly available on our Web site. Then a bunch of faculty freaked out about that so now, like most universities, That Other Site is the main resource for students seeking information about potential professors. Of course the faculty complain about that too, not that I blame them, but given that they don't want the university-administered evals online, either, I have to assume that they do not want any evaluation whatsover, whether formal or informal, to be available to students, and since they can't control That Other Site but can control the university's Web site, it appears that That Other Site will be the prevailing resource for students wondering if their faculty are PowerPoint drones or hottie-potatties or inaudible lecturers or only give As to girls or whatever.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's ok, Ruby. My urologist does the same thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These doctors don't know what they're doing. Last week my ophthalmologist stuck a speculum in my eye.

      Delete
  10. Graphic of the week?
    "Year" would be more like it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Our percentage is about 35%, and it's only the lovers and the haters.

    ReplyDelete
  12. When I was at a community college with the old-school Scantron evals in f-2-f sections, return rate was whatever the attendance was for that session (usually the review session before the final, so pretty high.

    When I shifted to a private SLAC-wanna be and my course was all online --along with the evals, return rate became about 50%.

    This term, we're doing this:
    If I get a 100% return rate, I offer 3% extra credit. There are two conditions:
    (1) They have to take me at my word.
    (2) If you need the 3% to move into a passing grade: no 3% credit for you.
    It's like some kind of experiment in utilitarianism...

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.