Three years ago I wrote a short post on student ratings that is still being shared by faculty and administrators. Like many of our readers, I've spent the last three years trying to keep up with the ever expanding literature. I haven't been impressed with everything I've read, but at least two studies published in the last year were significant enough to warrant an update.
Helping faculty think through what they value in the context of their courses is my favorite part of course design. But I have to confess that the traditional taxonomies I use when doing so have never made much conceptual sense to me. So after many years of introducing these categories with the caveat that we shouldn't think too hard about them, I finally decided to create my own. I didn't think the world needed yet another taxonomy of learning goals, but I thought I would do a better job talking with faculty if I could present the alternatives in my own vernacular. And it turns out they liked it enough to insist that I share.
"How much should I assign?" is one of the most basic questions teachers ask when designing and revising their courses. Yet it is also one of the most difficult to answer. To help instructors better calibrate their expectations, we've created a course workload estimator that incorporates the most important insights from the literature on how students learn.
In December of 2014, I stumbled upon an article by Linda Nilson about something called "specifications grading." I wasn't sure whether or how it would work, but in the spring of 2015, I threw out my traditional script and made yet another attempt to reimagine my grading. And here is what I've learned.
If one thing unites Molly Worthen, Damon Linker, and my colleagues in SoTL, it is the view that teachers--whatever we are doing in the classroom--are a central component of what makes the collegiate experience worth more than four years of trips to the public library. But why? What is it that makes a teacher valuable in a way that books are not? In this post, I propose that how we answer this question--that is, how we conceptualize the value of the teacher--is likely to be the best predictor of whether and how we use the lecture within our pedagogical repertoire.
A few weeks ago, we published a piece in which I argued that nearly everything written about student evaluations on the internet is a form of academic click bait, and that there is often little-to-no relationship between the viral success of these pieces and the quality of their arguments. I was, of course, aware of the irony of making such claims on the internet, particularly via a blog post that intentionally avoided the literature I called on all of us to read. And as this piece got a great deal of attention in the days after it was posted, I couldn’t help but smile as my intuition on these matters was confirmed.
It's been a bad year for student evaluations. In the space of two weeks in October, both NPR and the Harvard Business Review published pieces summarizing studies that were critical of their use. With provocative titles like "Student Course Evaluations Get an F" and "Better Teachers Receive Worse Student Evaluations," these pieces were (and continue to be) widely shared and much discussed among academics.