Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Higher Ed's Excellence Adventure

I get these emails once a month for free workshops on improving my teaching. I'd like to quote one, and I promise that this is entirely representative.

"Evaluations by students of teachers and courses provide useful feedback to faculty about student satisfaction. Additionally, student evaluations often influence administrative judgments about faculty and classroom quality. The new College of Arts & Sciences on-line evaluation system is being modified to produce a set of sophisticated reports about teaching for faculty and others with responsibilities for teaching excellence. This presentation describes reports on teaching that will soon be available. A summary of on-line evaluation data for the past four semesters will also be presented as the strengths and limitations of evaluation data have become clearer. The talk will be of interest to faculty, students, and administrators."

Okay, here are my notes:
I have never gotten an email for a workshop on how to "improve my teaching" in the sense of how to increase the amount of things that the students know.

I have never gotten an email suggesting that the student's experience in higher ed should be measured by how much they have learned.

Instead, I constantly get these emails suggesting that my "teaching excellence" is directly proportional to "student satisfaction". Not student abilities, student knowledge, or even student grades, but if they're having a good time.

Did you catch the subtle threat in this line: "Additionally student evaluations often influence administrative decisions about faculty and classroom quality"? Again, I have never been told that student grades, abilities, etc. have any "influence on administrative decisions about faculty and classroom quality".

And this, more than anything, is why the public will never get behind "reforming higher education"- one of the largest entrenched interests that has a stake in keeping standards low is students.

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