Thursday, June 14, 2007

I guess I could just rap their knuckles with a ruler or something.

[Photo redacted to protect pseudonymity.]

All my end-of-semester paperwork has gotten me thinking about the evaluations we get from our students. The problem with instructor evaluations is that they actually give you a pretty big incentive to be a crappy teacher. This is because good pedagogical methods are pretty much completely at odds with what it takes to make most students like you.

A surefire way to make most students love you, and thus give you fabulously high marks in your evals, is to give them high grades and not make them do much work. Of course, this is pedagogically unconscionable. Students really only learn anything when they actually have to work for it. And besides, most schools have at least a tacit expectation that your curve can’t be too high. You can’t very well give every kid in the class an A, just for showing up.

A colleague of mine has figured out a brilliant way to game the system here. He gives his students really easy assignments, and totally inflated grades, throughout the quarter. Everybody loves him. And then he fucks them on the final exam. Super hard exam; super tough grading. But the final exam doesn’t happen until after the students have filled out their evals. So he gets the curve he needs, and still gets great evals.

Genius. I’ve got to start doing this. Of course, it doesn't really solve the problem of forcing your students to actually learn something from you. But we all have to make compromises.

No comments: