Monday, June 11, 2012

Feedback From Students Becomes a Campus Staple, but Some Go Further

What a great idea.  More evidence out that students – even more so than "professional" evaluators or tests – are best at figuring out who the best (and worst) teachers are:

College learning assessments and professorial ratings come in many forms, with new ones popping up all the time. has been going strong for years, and almost everywhere, colleges ask students to fill out end-of-term evaluations — and increasingly, midterm evaluations as well.

Many professors with large lecture classes swear by clickers that help them keep tabs on how well their students are following the material. Some online courses include dashboards that let professors see which students are stuck, and where. And thousands of professors use some variation of K. Patricia Cross's "One-Minute Paper" approach, in which, at the end of each class, students write down the most important thing they learned that day — and the biggest question left unanswered.

But even in an era when teacher evaluations and learning assessments are a hot topic in education, Dr. Zaman stands out in his constant re-engineering of his teaching: He graphs the results the day he collects them (an upward trend is visible), sends out an e-mail telling the class about any fine-tuning he plans in response to their comments, and starts the following class by discussing the feedback.

"A lot of college teaching is not very good, and everybody knows it," he said. "Having student evaluations at the end of the course doesn't do anything to help it get better, and the person who does the evaluation can never benefit. To me it just seems intuitive to ask for ratings all along."

So why don't all of his colleagues do it?

"Excellent question," he said. "I know evaluations are a very loaded topic. And it's true you have to have a thicker skin. And there's another problem. Is the evaluation the diagnostic or the cure? If you're a tenured professor, and you don't care very much about your teaching, would it make any difference if you didn't get good ratings?"


Feedback From Students Becomes a Campus Staple, but Some Go Further

Published: March 28, 2012

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