Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Comics

Hey, kids! Sorry about the lack of a new comic now, and probably until later this evening. Why the delay?

You know that feeling that surrounds us all like the cloud of dirt orbiting around Pigpen (comic idea!)? That ever-present feeling of guilt casting shadows over whatever it is that you're currently doing and sucking joy out of it all? The feeling that you should really be working on your dissertation instead of drawing comics, watching your fantasy baseball scores, and posting on the PJMB? Well, I feel the feeling overtaking me.

And so, I'm going to cozy up with the dissertation for a while; grateful that my guilt has (at least temporarily) awakened me from my productivity coma.


(Update: It's not happening tonight, folks. Sorry. And, you know, I'd feel a lot better about it if I had written a few more pages, but I have no good excuse, as it were. We'll see if I can get something for the true believers in the next day or two.)


Sisyphus said...

Wait, if you have a dissertation, and I have a dissertation, and you suddenly feel guilty like you need to work on the dissertation instead of play on the internet, then...

nope, sorry, I'm unable to find a logical conclusion here.

Maybe it will come to me after I take a nap.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know that feeling. I have been recently relieved of it by defending. It doesn't go away overnight. However, over the course of several months I have been able to do so many of those things w/o feeling guilty. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

There's a good thread starting up over at Leiter's blog on how to prepare for interviews at schools that emphasize teaching over research. Of course, all the advice, coming from faculty members will truly reflect what at least that one person is looking for, so it's always worth considering what they say. But surely this piece of advice is going to be limited to just the person positing it, isn't it:

"If you include student comments from teaching evals in your dossier (which you should), make sure that you include all student comments, both good and bad, from any class in which you include any comments. Don't cherry-pick; it just makes you look bad, as even profs you have overall bad evals will usually get a least a few student rave reviews. If the format of the evals doesn't make it obvious (e.g., if the students hand-wrote their comments and you typed them up for purposes of legibility and space), note up front that you're including all comments."

Anyone else concur with this? I hope not. I threw out all the bad comments a long time ago. The understanding is that with these sorts of things, everyone picks the stuff that makes them look good. That's the point. That's also why they're so useless. I wouldn't include them with my applications except that they seem to have become the new standard, like with teaching statements. What's next? Streaming video of our teaching performance?

Anonymous said...

No way in hell should anyone include all of the bad evals in their dossier.

Notice the poor of logic underlying the Leiterite's statement.

Suppose that I was such a terrific in-classroom educator, that ALL or ALL-BUT-ONE of my students in a given course gave me strong evals (as seems utterly plausible). If the Leiterite is correct, then, when the SC looks at my pile-o-glowing evals, they would be justified in concluding "what a twig, this person is clearly cherry-picking their evals, No one is THIS good."

But surely THAT conclusion is suspect.

Hence, we should rightly conclude, the sheer ratio of good to bad evals is no grounds for assessing whether or not those evals have been cherry picked.

And since there is, short of calling all of a given persons students and confirming with them, no grounds for assessing the authenticity of a selection of evals, then why cripple yourself by not playing the game as everyone else is?

senior grad said...

To Anon 8:15 -- I don't think the advice you quote is so anomalous. I have seen a handful of ads in the JFP that specifically ask for complete sets of student comments. And I think it's true that if you cherry-pick, the comments don't provide much value to an SC, in part because almost everyone will have at least some good reviews, and also because SC's will want to get a sense of why your negative reviewers are being negative.

If you include student comments and don't say that they represent a complete set, then SCs will probably wonder whether, or maybe even assume that, what you've given are 'selected comments'. And if you provide 'selected comments', SCs might be concerned that you had to give selected comments because giving a complete set would have made you look bad. If there's even some possibility of that in their mind, and if they care about student comments at all, they may well pass you over in favor of others whose dossiers don't raise that particular doubt.

There may be exceptions. If an ad doesn't ask for student comments, but you can cherry-pick some really exceptional ones, then maybe including them will help, if that school cares much about teaching. But in general, my guess is that SCs that care about student comments at all will generally prefer complete sets.

Of course, if providing a complete set makes you look bad, then you shouldn't provide it, unless the ad specifically asks for it, but in that case (i.e., they ask for a complete set and you don't have a good one), it's probably a job you won't get anyway.

Put another way: if you don't have a complete and good set to include, why include them at all? Do cherry-picked comments really help? My guess is no. Any SC members disagree?

Anonymous said...

I've been on many, many search committees over the years at places from outside the Leiter top 50 to Leiterrific. Any student evals for a course that aren't obviously a complete set (w/ all the evals) I completely ignore. Indeed, if anything, they make a negative impression, as they lead me to believe the person is hiding something.

At most places, you get a numerical summary of the scores that indicate how many students were in the class, how many filled out evals etc. so it is easy to see if you have the complete set.

It's a mistake to only include a bunch of positive evals...or at any rate, at best you are fooling yourself and wasting your time. No one I know would take that seriously.

Sumbit complete sets of evals when applying for jobs,(just as you will do for tenure and promotion!).

Anonymous said...

When I was on the market last year I did exactly what this person recommended (included all student comments and noted that that's what I was doing). It's hard to tell without a control, but I don't think it hurt me. Half of my interviews were with teaching institutions (two SLACs, one small private university, and one large regional state university) and half were with other, research-oriented universities.

There were some harsh reviews in there, though it probably helped that they were almost all from my first independently-taught class.

james hoffa said...

Thoughts on the latest JfP in progress, anyone?

I see a number of lectureships out there. How do we reverse the trend to have them look/pay for more tenure-track faculty? Would we be shooting ourselves in the foot by appealing to the students or their parents, telling that their hard-earned tuition buys them what's essentially a substitute teacher??

How about unionize on a national level (i.e., not just uncoordinated strikes or walk-outs on a particular campuses)? Does anyone here care enough to do something about this??...

Anonymous said...

We need to distinguish between evaluations and comments. The evaluations are those sheets with the fill-in-the-bubbles. It sounds like some of you are suggesting actually sending everyone one of those for one or more classes. (As in, if you had 35 students, send all 35 bubble sheets.) What the hell?! I assume when ads ask for evaluations, they just want the 2-3 page numerical summary. Then there's comments. No ad I've ever seen asked for comments. I have seen ads ask for student evaluations. Other ads ask for evidence of teaching excellence. Selecting just the positive comments provides that. They aren't asking me for evidence of teaching incompetence or evidence of student dissatisfaction. They're asking for evidence of teaching excellence. I can give them that with the selected comments. If they want all the comments, they should say that they want all relevant evaluative material.

Anonymous said...

I concur with Anon 6:12. Send the numerical evaluations--this should give committee members some sense of whether the kids liked the class, loved the class, were lukewarm, divided, whatever. Select some good quotes, maybe throw in some that aren't uniformly ecstatic in order to show that you're not simply plucking the most positive ones out. Make it clear that you have complete sets of evaluations on file, if anyone wants to see them. But seriously, if you include all comments, even in a small class of 15-20, think of the number pages involved here, or the work involved in transcribing them all... for a job that you have no reason to believe you have much of a shot at. Then you start multiplying this over several classes... Think about how much Interfolio is going to charge... The fiduciary and environmental considerations in play here speak against this.

I've never been on a search committee at the kind of institution we're discussing here, so maybe I'm all wet. Does anyone really want to receive 120 page teaching portfolios in the mail? I guess if an ad says 'complete comments,' maybe they do.

crabby abby said...

What Anon 6:12 said.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should get letters of reference from ALL the members of our department and send copies of all the term papers we wrote, including crappy ones. After all, we wouldn't want to be selectively choosing only the good stuff, would we?

Anonymous said...

Hi 5:57,

I suppose the non-responses to your queries mean that, despite all the whinging about adjuncts, no one cares enough to do anything about it. Or maybe it's simply too early on your side of the pond.

senior grad said...

Sadly, I think the only way that universities will move to more tenure-track faculty is if they're not able to fill teaching slots otherwise. If no one applies for those jobs, maybe they will go away. (Or maybe universities will rely even more heavily on things like distance learning.) But as long as a lecturer opening garners a bunch of qualified applicants, there will be significant numbers of lecturer positions. Perhaps student complaints would do the trick, if students were also willing to vote with their feet... but I don't see that happening.

I still see no reason to include hand-picked student comments in a dossier. I don't think they really constitute evidence of teaching excellence, and more to the point, I don't think any SC would view them as such. I think a complete set of comments from a single class is what is needed, if you're going to include student comments at all. There's a difference between turning in all your term papers, including the bad ones, and turning in all the comments from a single class -- namely that there's just one performance being evaluated in the latter case. Obviously you still pick your best performance to submit -- i.e., the class that overall received the best set of comments -- but SCs want to see the variety of responses that students had to that single semester-long performance.

For numerical scores, I think the statistical summaries are what people want to see. Obviously no one is going to read individual bubble sheets, though they will potentially read individual student comments.