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  •  An extremely terribly bad idea! (20+ / 0-)

    I once attended a lecture by a professor in my Psych Dept about student evaluations. He analyzed the scores handed out by students and found that they were very strongly correlated with the students' eventual grades (which they didn't know until after the evaluation). In other words: university students know how they are performing and think teachers are great when they are doing well, but think they suck when they are failing. The psychology of this is pretty simple: failing students want to blame someone else for their poor performance.

    Now, if that is the case for university students, how could that not be even more true for children, who know that their evaluations might hurt the teacher? We're talking Lord of the Flies scenarios here. Here's what will happen if children (or parent) evaluations are used in performance ratings for teachers: grade inflation. And, why should an overworked teacher push her students in any way if that might get her fired or cause her to lose her next raise?

    In a university setting, student evals can be useful for teaching feedback, but for K-12, I don't even see them being useful for that. Most kids don't have the sophistication to know what good teaching is, much less the ability to evaluate a teacher on their merits apart from their own personal experience and feelings.

    "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

    by quill on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 05:18:09 PM PST

    •  Uh. The psychology may *appear* to be simple, (11+ / 0-)

      but conversely, there's going to be a positive correlation between the quality of the teacher with respect to student X, and student X's overall performance. Students are unlikely to grade an instructor highly if the students are unable to comprehend the material and complete the assignments correctly. Yes, it may be an individual student's "fault" due to any number of failings of virtue: laziness, disorganization, procrastination, etc. -- but if bad teaching doesn't correlate with worse performance, then bad teachers aren't really a problem, are they?

      I once came into a classroom after grading an exam on which the class as a whole had done quite dismally. I went into a bit of a rant about the fact that there were fundamental concepts that they clearly weren't getting, etc. etc.; eventually, one of the students (a guy in his late 20s, BTW), suggested that if the entire class was failing to grasp the fundamental concepts, perhaps the fault lay elsewhere than in the students themselves. I considered this a breakthrough moment -- for them, not for me, I was hoping somebody would make the obvious observation. From there, having equalized our status, we were able to begin a conversation about where things were going wrong.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:48:11 PM PST

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      •  it's a matter of degree (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Orakio, stretchslr53, AZphilosopher

        In the university study, the majority of the variance was accounted for by student grade rather than teacher, meaning that, though there may be a correlation between teaching skill and evaluation, the students' attitudes were a larger effect.

        That means student evaluations are great for self assessment (personally, I ignored the standard bubblesheet rating forms and instead only read the open ended "what could the teacher done better" written forms), but are unfair if used by administrators to score teaching performance for "accountability" purposes. This is the universal problem with evaluation based assessment metrics, and other measures that feed into "value added" assessment formulas: there are other, sometimes stronger, factors that creep in and skew the score.

        The professor's summary was that student assessments are valuable feedback, but should not be used for faculty performance rating. Not that the admin was listening...

        "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

        by quill on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 08:16:14 PM PST

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    •  that's not true for me at least (3+ / 0-)

      I only ever gave out one horrible review and frankly the teacher earned every word of it. He was late, played obvious favorites, changed the rules every week and much much more.

      I'm not entirely sure I like what TN is doing but I know I like shutting students out even less.

      Der Weg ist das Ziel

      by duhban on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 08:23:22 PM PST

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      •  wasn't for me either (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        duhban, Cassandra Waites, Maple Jenny

        And probably a lot of other students. I always prided myself on being fair about things like that. But, given a statistically meaningful sample, we are the outliers (or at least one side of the distribution). I certainly saw the "eye for an eye" effect, when I was a student and as a TA.

        "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

        by quill on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 09:19:15 PM PST

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        •  I suppose that depends on what you mean (3+ / 0-)

          One of my organic teachers had the following averages for the 3 tests and the final:

          28% 31% 25% 18%

          Now I know people complained about this both during the class and in the final evaluation. Hell I was one of them and in fairness I should probably say I got a D in the class. That said I did just as much work as some friends and they passed with a C. Now said teacher actually seemed to pride himself on having such low scoring averages. To which I don't see the point.

          As someone else in this diary pointed out at a certain point it's not the student, it's the teacher. Personally I think given the sheer volume of reviews anything vicious and unfair will be washed out in that volume.

          Der Weg ist das Ziel

          by duhban on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 09:34:40 PM PST

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          •  Sounds like my organic chem class. (9+ / 0-)

            Our last exam we had had an average of 43%.  I had like the 3rd highest grade with a 68% (and I'm an otherwise straight-A student).  

            Perhaps it's just the nature of the subject, but it seems to me if the vast majority of your students are doing poorly on exams (especially when the majority of the students are highly motivated pre-med students), then you either need to reevaluate your teaching methods or your exams.  

            •  I certainly think some of it is topic sepecific (2+ / 0-)

              as I finished my degree else where and people struggled there too but it wasn't nearly as bad grade wise. But to me that's kinda of the point. If the whole point of a grade is to judge how well you grasp the material and the average says you fail then really what is the point? Now that might be beyond the teacher (for example I think it absurd that organic is only 2 semsters) but some of it surely isn't.

              And that is why I'm not against this in general.

              Der Weg ist das Ziel

              by duhban on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 11:36:34 PM PST

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              •  I dropped out of college chemistry several times (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                duhban, Cassandra Waites

                because they always held the class at 8 a.m. and then assigned us lab spots at 8 p.m.
                    There was no way I was going to be wide awake for both of those on the same day, while retaining the info I had just precariously acquired. Never understood why I couldn't get a 10 a.m. class with a lab after lunch.

                We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

                by nuclear winter solstice on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 05:12:14 AM PST

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            •  I had a professor once who (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Liberal Of Limeyland

              wondered why I was withdrawing from his class when there had been a curve of 60% on the first test, we had all spent the week before we found out he was curving it and after we'd taken the test thinking we'd failed completely, and he had kids actually self-harming (hair-pulling, scratching) in class in front of him while he chastised them for doing things the way they were usually done in the department.

              Luckily he was only going to be a one-semester hire anyway. Unluckily I was the only one in the class who could withdraw without ending up in college for a fifth year.

            •  It's not the subject, I've seen organic classes (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mahakali overdrive

              with 80% averages. It's mostly test design imho.

          •  Similar experience (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I had a professor who did something similar.   The first test was impossible to complete in the allotted time.  I got a C or D on it.    I complained bitterly to the teacher and he said that the test was designed to be too long, and it had many very hard questions.

            He explained that if the test was not too hard for most of the class, he would not be able to fairly evaluate the top 5%, of which some would be geniuses.  

            He also said it was important to know if you know an answer.   Professionals cannot fudge their way through an answer and get partial credit.   Better to not try than to fake it.

            I had returned to school as an adult, and I didn't know this teachers approach.    To be fair he should have laid it out in the first class, and perhaps on the test itself.

            His advice to me was -Read the questions, and pick the ones you are going to answer.   Answer the hardest ones only if you know the answer.    Scan through the test over and over , answering the easiest questions until the two hour test period was over, then hand it in.

            I got a B in that first class and took two more classes from him, in which I got A's .   I never finished a single test.   I went to work in IT in the field that I had learned from this one teacher.

            •  Absolutely the test design should have been made (0+ / 0-)

              clear, before the first test. Otherwise, I would have no complaints.

              Taking tests is a skill, which is generally not taught. By waiting for students to figure it out on their own, he unnecessarily skewed his grades.

    •  Give students more credit (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, Liberal Of Limeyland

      Sure, there are quite a few who are petty that way. But overall, as long as the student feedback metric used to evaluate teachers  is just one of many metrics, it is a very useful metric. Over time, it averages out.  

      •  the research demonstrates bias (4+ / 0-)

        No, I won't give the kids more credit, since the research shows that there is a significant and strong effect of student attitude and performance on evaluations. This effect "averages out" to an unfair negative impact on a teacher's evaluation. Furthermore, the effect is stronger in certain areas, again unfairly impacting those teachers compared with others.

        If you were a teacher, and you knew that there is a significant "grudge" factor to evaluation scores that has nothing to do with your teaching effectiveness, and your evaluation scores were part of a ranking formula that determined your salary, advancement, and even employment, wouldn't you see that as unfair?

        I've done a lot of teaching at the university level, from lower to upper division courses. I've seen that "grudge" effect and discussed it with other teachers who have had to deal with it too. My personal solution was to grade on a curve, be generous, and make sure the kids knew it. Being a hardass only works for full profs who don't need to worry about evals.

        "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

        by quill on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 08:59:49 AM PST

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    •  it's such a bad idea that it will almost certainly (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quill, sandblaster

      be adopted and put into practice.  That's the way things work nowadays.

      Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

      by Keith930 on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 04:21:28 PM PST

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