Friday, April 06, 2007

Evaluating teachers on the web

My local newspaper pointed me to a website that allows students Australia-wide to anonymously rate their teachers by applying 5-point scales to the 'easiness', 'helpfulness' and 'clarity' of their teaching efforts. Comments can also be appended to the numerical evaluation. University teachers are evaluated as part of the survey.

Predictably the dinosaurs in The Australian Education Union, such as Mary Bluett, object to any such evaluations because they might be negative - some teachers have rung her saying they are 'hurt by the comments'. But the comments might also give undue praise - glancing through some of the schools that I know about I saw a few exaggerated comments in that direction.

The comments too are entirely unrepresentative - the 'squeaky wheels' are most likely to offer a view and indeed perhaps to repeat views by 'sock puppeting'.

But still I have some sympathy for this flawed evaluation technique. I know from experience that incompetent teachers do maintain teaching positions for long periods in both schools and universities despite various internal, private evaluation procedures.

Reforms that retrain or replace incompetent teachers are overdue and would do away entirely with parents needing to rely on biased public websites to get information.


conrad said...

Actually, if you want to find yourself, there is also, although the Australian category has been deleted (I'm not sure why -- although there were hardly any Australian ratings) -- or perhaps I am remembering incorrectly -- there are now numerous sites like this. I believe you used to be on it.

I'm also not a fan of it -- it just seems to me the next reason to go for the lowest common denominator, which of course also gets you the highest teaching mark (easy assignment, lectures where you never ask students to do anything, multiple choice only exams, high marks). Also, if it does turn into harrasment too much, that seems to be yet another reason why not to become a teacher -- what happens to people who don't want to be in the public domain? Please increase salary due to adding yet another potentially bad thing about the job to attract the same level of people

In addition, you can look at the other way. If I started a site up called, where we list, say, annoying students we could exclude from an honors program (and hence do people in other universities a favor when they move with the high marks we gave them so we would get rated well) I'm sure it would create great amounts of complaints. Better yet, why not just stick a big list up on the wall where everyone is rated against each other.

GoAwayPlease said...

"Predictably the dinosaurs in The Australian Education Union, such as Mary Bluett, object to any such evaluations because they might be negative -"

the hypocrisy of it !!

when the entire system is 'evaluation'.

I wish there was anecdotal space here for the witless tutors and lecturers I experienced. witless.
Just one:
John Guyas, Lecturer, Ballarat (not really a)University, straight from London, having been employed via the internet, said he had NEVER HEARD OF THE SIMPSONS.

despite Time magazine naming it the TV show of the century, despite them being a 'Marketing' phenomenon.

when I choked my amazement at him, Third Year marketing Students remonstrated that
"nobody watches that anymore anyway".
I hope he is on that Ratings thingy.

hc said...

At many universities student evaluations within departmewnts are posted on websites. This seems reasonable.

Anonymous said...

If we compare research oriented Australian universities to, for example, research oriented North American universities, my guess is that the gap between teaching performance is probably nowhere near as great as the gap in research performance (at least in Economics) - so spending considerable resources on improving teaching performance at the university level would seem a misallocation of resources.

That being said, there should be more flexibility in the Australian system for smaller universities to specialise in teaching the way the liberal arts college system does the US (though this will probably require fee deregulation and will almost certainly take time).

Gummo Trotsky said...