Ideas that kill education

  1. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

  2. jcsd
  3. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    Student evaluations are (generally) useless. I'm sorry to see some administrators thinking otherwise.

    Well, since education is subject to the same pressures as medicine (i.e. the recipient of a *service* is considered a *customer*, and the customer is always right), it's not surprising. Yet another race to the bottom....
     
  4. They are not worthless, they are just not doing everything by themselves. It is good for the teachers to get some feedback but it is not like a teacher will change the course outline due to it. Doesn't matter if he don't get promoted for it or not, what matters is that most people care about their honor and try to do a good job when people depend on them and this reminds them of that. Technically most teachers could do a much lousier job than they currently do and still keep their jobs without consequences but they don't, the more you can play on those feelings the better.

    Edit: Btw, I think that having course evaluation and such playing a role in their salary would be detrimental to their teaching.
     
  5. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    I didn't say they were worthless. I said they are useless. There's a difference.
     
  6. Point taken.
     
  7. As a member of the part-time faculty at our local community college, I've often wished for some sort of objective way to measure my success as a teacher. Any suggestions? It would be nice to be able to say year-over-year that I have improved at what I do.
     
  8. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    I've been thinking about that, too- and learning some of the educational 'lingo'. One important step is to first define what your course goals are: that is, when you say you have successfully taught a group of students, what exactly do you mean? *what* have the students been taught?

    From what I gather, most "assessments"- homeworks, tests, etc., are measurements of the success of the student. In Physics education, there's been a recent development of new types of tests (concept inventories, the Force Concept Inventory is the most well-known) that are supposed to be a better assessment:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concept_inventory

    With all the assessment tools available, there does not appear to be a single one designed to measure the teacher. To be sure, test scores are often used as a measure of the teacher, but the reality is the the student is being tested.

    Part of my tenure package is a "teaching portfolio", and I've been trying to incorporate exactly what you are asking about: evidence that I am a successful teacher (or more accurately, I demonstrate progress towards competency).

    I don't have a definitive answer, but some examples I came up with are: students ask more and more sophisticated questions in class; tests and homeworks that demonstrate the student can think logically and solve complex problems, students can correctly apply some basic factual knowledge- those are some of my course goals.

    To summarize, there is not (AFAIK) an assessment desgined to measure the teacher- you must develop your own. In order to do that, you must begin with your goals of what you want the students to learn. Your college may have teaching resources available to you, and I recommend you make use of them. I'm reading a book "What the best college teachers do" (Ken Bain), and it's pretty good- you may want to check it out.
     
  9. mgb_phys

    mgb_phys 8,952
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    The goal of schools is to maximize test scores, the point of a teacher is to do that - so test scores are the only necessary measure of teaching performance.

    I suppose you could refine it to the change in test scores with a new teacher
     
  10. I thought it was maximizing the knowledge students get, and even then it's somewhat ambiguous, as you don't know whether it's strictly knowledge of the area you're teaching or more generally increasing preparedness to deal with and improve the real world.
     
  11. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    That was before tests were introduced to check students knowledge. The idea was that tests should be objective, identical and used at the same time in different schools to make results comparable. That ended with teaching to the test - it doesn't matter what student knows and understands, it matters if the student gets high score on the test, so high score gets a priority over understanding. It may look like understanding leads to high scores, obviously it is not that simple, and kid got thrown with a bath. Pupils are doing previous tests, test tests, trial tests and preparatory tests, to get prepared to the real test. Somehow they don't have time to really understand the material.
     
  12. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    Given the title of this thread, you've either made a very ironic post, or a very sad one.
     
  13. Isn't he just being realistic?
     
  14. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    I think I understand what you really mean, but standardized tests have been around a verrrrrrrry long time: 6th century, at least. Tests have been around even longer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standardized_test

    This is not a new problem; what is (refreshingly) new is the idea of applying the scientific method in assessing the act of learning: hypothesize, test, assess, repeat and refine.

    It's no surprise that the goals of the teacher and the goals of the student are often very different. That does not invalidate the teacher's need for constant improvement. Self-assessment is one way to achieve this.
     
  15. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    I assume you are referring to mgb_phys's post?

    Those comments absolutely reflect the b.s. associated with the "no child left behind" act, as well as other *standardized* tests. I cannot argue against their utility, but I can object to the mentality.

    Those comments do not apply to college instruction, as those tests are not standardized. At least mine aren't. Hopefully, you can understand that some students will have a hard time making the transition from being taught to a test their whole life, then entering a classroom where memorization of facts is secondary to the ability to think.

    Edit: I guess I should be honest and say that yes, there are plenty of college professors that continue the idea of route memorization (introductory science classes in particular), but I don't have to teach that way if I think it's an inferior method, which I do.
     
  16. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    Yep, I see I wasn't clear. I am not against tests as such, I am against policy that made teachers teach to the test.
     
  17. Just because a data set contains a lot of noise does not make it useless (or worthless). Good feedback is the most important part of any Scientific endeavor. While this particular application may be very flawed, I am surprised that some esteemed scientists here seem adverse to developing measurable tests of the efficacy of their methods.

    All you have to do is surf around the very random and unscientific 'ratemyprofessors' to see that, despite the low quality of the data, you can still get useful information from student feedback. Imagine if someone (without a political axe to grind) actually put a little effort into it?
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2010
  18. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    I see no post here that supports this assertion. Please explain what you mean?
     
  19. I did not mean it as a blanket statement. However:
    Perhaps I misinterpreted these comments? If so, I apologize, but humour and subtlety are easily lost in posts. I am less familiar with the US standardized testing system.

    Also, the article itself (which wasn't necessarily supported by anyone here) was pretty disparaging of student's abilities to assess their own learning process and give useful feedback.
     
  20. Andy Resnick

    Andy Resnick 5,860
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    I think you misunderstood my posts. Specifically, I have claimed:

    1) While there are many methods to assess students, there are (AFAIK) none that assess the instructor.
    2) Student assessments of instructors generally do not contain information sufficient for the instructor to gain an objective measure of effectiveness.
    3) That does not mean instructors should not try and develop self-assessment tools.
     
  21. I've found that the worth of student evaluations depends heavily on the maturity and ability of the students I've taught. At the very best places, where the students were motivated, bright and interested, their feedback, especially their comments, helped me see which parts of my courses had worked better than others, and sometimes contained useful suggestions.

    At another place I taught where, by large, the students were not very motivated, indifferent, a little bit lazy and not wanting to be pushed, the student evaluation forms had a negative effect on the quality of teaching. Alas, the students didn't like being pushed, they responded to flattery rather than fair and honest criticism, and preferred easy courses that didn't push them. After a few years there, and a few negative evaluations, and a few depressing sessions in front of our Head of Department, I played that game, bit my tongue, told a few jokes and won them over. Everyone was happy - except me and I soon quit the place.

    It's an interesting question how you assess the success of your course - but student evaluations and tests passed are, in my view, pretty dangerous instruments if not used wisely.
     
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