Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Improving student evaluations :: EconLog

Bryan Caplan has a modest proposal:
All it takes to change a relatively good evaluation to a rather bad one is three hard-to-please students. This gives professors perverse incentives to pander to the squeekiest wheels in the classroom, instead of enhancing students' average experience.
Read the whole brief thing.


Anonymous Acad Ronin said...

I find that at my school the mean is around 3.9. One way to improve the scoring is to use the median, rounded to the nearest integer. This is more robust to outliers.

That said, the key issue is whether teacher evaluations convey any information about teaching. The evidence I have seen is that they don't. They do tell you who students find charismatic and lenient, but that is all.

Leniency doesn't mean that one can't grade strictly. It does mean that one cannot grade subjectively. The students will accept tough grades in econ and finance where there is a well-defined answer. They do not like being told that their analysis of a case, reading, or the like, is average, or weak, not particularly insightful, unoriginal, etc. They retaliate for that. The optimal strategy for teachers is to leave all subjective grading to final projects and final exams, the results of which will not be available to the students until after the students have handed in evaluations.

That said, teaching evaluations that are really abysmal may signal something, even if only that a pissing contest developed in the class. Also, I have found student comments helpful in identifying annoying habits (such as jngling keys in my pocket).

7:06 AM  

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