Jeff Young from the Chronicle has started a flame war conversation on the future of lecturing in higher education by having students send in videos with their thoughts on lecture, followed by professors sending in their videos on the same thing (and to rebut the student comments). Here’s my response, which shows up at the main discussion thread but a few slots below the main professors’ video:
To sum up my main points from this video:
The discussion shouldn’t be about whether we are pro-lecture or anti-lecture, but whether lecture works in terms of student learning, where by “student” we mean the learners that are actually there in the classes we are teaching at the moment.
When you frame it that way, lecture by itself is often a poor choice and we need to be open to using whatever combination of teaching tools best enables our students to learn.
One of the reasons I brought up the notion of getting rid of our current conception of student evaluations is that I’ve had too many courses in which things seems to be going just fine during the semester, and then I get comments on student course evaluations about things that I cannot even recognize as having happened in the class. Something minor happens, for example, in week 5, and it goes unchecked, and grows ineffably until what the student sees is some huge shortcoming on the course’s part — on my part — and I get hammered on the evaluations for it, even though when I read the written comments I cannot even usually fathom what it is the student is referencing.
So this semester I decided that I needed to do something about this, namely just simply paying more attention every week to how students are doing, generally, in my classes. Especially in the freshman classes, where the…
Having been on the Promotion and Tenure Committee now for two years, and having the job of reading reams of course evaluations for not only myself but many of my colleagues to determine how good a job (or not) they are doing at teaching, I have a new appreciation for just how bad of an evaluative instrument the typical student course evaluation really is. I say let’s ditch the whole system and start over.
I suppose I should elaborate. The whole point of any kind of evaluation on anybody is to gather information. And I think of information the way Claude Shannon did, i.e. information is that which reduces uncertainty. Alice does an evaluation of Bob for some official purpose because the people in charge do not themselves have a clear idea of what Bob is doing, and it would be a little biased to have Bob evaluate himself, so Alice goes in to provide some kind of substantive information…
I am a mathematician and educator with interests in cryptology, computer science, and STEM education. I am affiliated with the Mathematics Department at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. The views here are my own and are not necessarily shared by GVSU.
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