Podcast #72

Everyone has an opinion about course evaluations, but unfortunately most of these opinions are based on personal anecdotes and armchair speculation. Our guest in this episode is Betsy Barre, author of several articles reviewing the literature on what’s right and what’s wrong with course evaluations. Betsy is currently an Associate Director at Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, and in May 2018 she will move on to become the Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Collaborative at Wake Forest University. We cover a lot of ground during our conversation about this important and complex topic.

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Show Notes

0:00 Intro

0:43 Welcome Betsy Barre! Why so much complaining about student evaluations? Not everything written on the web is negative:

6:27 Are student ratings valid? What should we even be measuring? Peter Cohen’s 1981 meta-analysis showed a strong and significant correlation between student evaluations and teacher effectiveness (or student learning, anyway).

12:11 Looking at the numbers (and even just ONE number) vs. the students’ qualitative comments. Other questions that are sometimes asked that are NOT about teaching.

17:47 Uttl et al. re-ran Cohen’s meta-analysis and then did a new one with more recent research. Is there any correlation whatever between student evaluation and instructor effectiveness?!

24:53 Using future grades as a measure of teaching effectiveness.

30:33 If numerical measures are not the best ones, what measures should we use to measure teaching effectiveness? Peer observations? Standardized tests of student learning?

35:00 Why individual student evaluation comments are not so valuable–and how aggregate student comments CAN be.

45:13 Speed Round – Question #1. What are the benefits (and risks) of using Wieman and Gilbert’s Teaching Practices Inventory?

48:30 Speed Round – Question #2. Should student evaluations be public or private?

56:58 Speed Round – Question #3. How might we improve response rates on teacher evaluations?

1:00:36 Teaching center fails.

1:03:04 Signing off.