Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Heading Down

Inside Higher Ed has a lengthy article about a new AAUP survey of teaching evaluation practices.* (No link is provided to the survey and I couldn't find it after poking around on the web this morning.) However, one statement caught my eye:

Respondents who said their institutions had adopted online evaluations reported much lower student return rates than those who stuck with paper evaluations: 20-40 percent versus 80 percent or higher. “With such a rate of return, all pretensions to ‘validity’ are rendered dubious,” the paper says. “Faculty report that the comments coming in are from the students on either of the extremes: those very happy with their experience and/or their grade, and those very unhappy.”

There is a counterpart to this observation with regard to MOOCs. In principle, they reach everyone by being online but actual completion rates for MOOCs are low. Of course, there are other issues with regard to standard teaching evaluations other than response rates. Nonetheless, in the case of evaluations note that the same computer technology that makes possible the gathering of such evaluations online could produce near universal response rates if completion of an evaluation was a requirement for obtaining credit for the course. Surely a bit of computer programming could handle the link between evaluation completion and course completion. (You could add the ability to choose to abstain from answering any or all of the questions after signing on to evaluate for students who had some philosophical objection to the process or feared that they would be identified.)

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