Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Faculty no longer dogged by student evaluations at USC
Teaching Eval Shake-Up
By Colleen Flaherty, May 22, 2018, Inside Higher Ed
Research is reviewed in a rigorous manner, by expert peers. Yet teaching is often reviewed only or mostly by pedagogical non-experts: students. There’s also mounting evidence of bias in student evaluations of teaching, or SETs -- against female and minority instructors in particular. And teacher ratings aren’t necessarily correlated with learning outcomes.
All that was enough for the University of Southern California to do away with SETs in tenure and promotion decisions this spring. Students will still evaluate their professors, with some adjustments -- including a new focus on students’ own engagement in a course. But those ratings will not be used in high-stakes personnel decisions. The changes took place earlier than the university expected. But study after recent study suggesting that SETs advantage faculty members of certain genders and backgrounds (namely white men) and disadvantage others was enough for Michael Quick, provost, to call it quits, effective immediately.
“He just said, ‘I’m done. I can’t continue to allow a substantial portion of the faculty to be subject to this kind of bias,” said Ginger Clark, assistant vice provost for academic and faculty affairs and director of USC’s Center for Excellence in Teaching. “We’d already been in the process of developing a peer-review model of evaluation, but we hadn’t expected to pull the Band-Aid off this fast.”
While Quick was praised on campus for his decision, the next, obvious question is how teaching will be assessed going forward. The long answer is through a renewed emphasis on teaching excellence in terms of training, evaluation and incentives.
“It’s big move. Everybody's nervous," Clark said. "But what we've found is that people are actually hungry for this kind of help with their teaching."
SETs -- one piece of the puzzle -- will continue to provide “important feedback to help faculty adjust their teaching practices, but will not be used directly as a measure in their performance review,” Clark said. The university’s evaluation instrument also was recently revised, with input from the faculty, to eliminate bias-prone questions and include more prompts about the learning experience.
Umbrella questions such as, “How would you rate your professor?” and “How would you rate this course?” -- which Clark called “popularity contest” questions -- are now out. In are questions on course design, course impact and instructional, inclusive and assessment practices. Did the assignments make sense? Do students feel they learned something? Students also are now asked about what they brought to a course. How many hours did they spend on coursework outside of class? How many times did they contact the professor? What study strategies did they use?
While such questions help professors gauge how their students learn, Clark said, they also signal to students that “your learning in this class depends as much as your input as your professor’s work.” There is also new guidance about keeping narrative comments -- which are frequently subjective and off-topic -- to course design and instructional practices. Still, SETs remain important at USC. Faculty members are expected to explain how they used student feedback to improve instruction in their teaching reflection statements, which continue to be part of the tenure and promotion process, for example. But evaluation data will no longer be used in those personnel decisions.
Schools and colleges may also use evaluations to gather aggregate data on student engagement and perceptions about the curriculum, or USC’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, Clark said. They may also use them to identify faculty members who do “an outstanding job at engaging students, faculty who may need some support in that area of their teaching, or problematic behaviors in the classroom that require further inquiry.”
Again, however, SETs themselves will not be used as a direct measure in performance evaluations...
Full story at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/05/22/most-institutions-say-they-value-teaching-how-they-assess-it-tells-different-story