Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sneaky Ways to Improve Student Evaluations

—Hand out evaluation forms when the most irascible student in class is absent.

—Be sure that the only assignment you give right before the evaluation is a low-stakes one. “Have them write an easy paper where they can talk about themselves and their journey in the class,” Ms. Wilson advises. And never give back a graded assignment on evaluation day.

—Don’t leave the classroom while the evaluations are being filled out — even if you’ve been told that you’re supposed to do so. That way one or two unhappy students won’t talk out loud and poison the rest of the class’s opinions.

—Don’t give students too much time at the end of class to fill out the forms. “If they’re in a hurry, they’ll give you all fives unless they’re mad at you,” Ms. Wilson says.

—Oh, and let students hand in papers late, retake exams like it’s the DMV, and complete extra credit, which is almost as valuable as a chocolate-chip cookie. “You can’t make a student too mad at you,” she says. “We all know we can’t afford to uphold grading standards because of the pressure put on us.”

At least these are (hopefully humorously) suggested by some undergraduate profs. Here is a Vitae article summarizing critiques of student evaluations. And here is a posting by Berkeley statistics professor Phil Stark offering empirical analyses debunking the usefulness of these evaluations.


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