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Author Topic: Student evaluations too high?  (Read 1913 times)
geheimrat
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« on: May 12, 2016, 10:34:32 am »

I changed positions a few years ago from one community college to another.  Since then I have been teaching lower level classes than previously for the most part and the curriculum is fairly rigidly set by the department.  I also have more material  to cover in less time. There is a common final exam and common online homework shell.  Since I started my evaluations have steadily increased until the last few semesters I have had almost no negative comments.  I have compared my exams to others in the department who teach the same courses and mine seem to be in the middle in terms of difficulty.  I think that a good part of why they are so high is that I have improved in my clarity as well as in my communication with students, but I am concerned that I may be teaching too much to the test because of how much the curriculum is set by the department and how little class time I have.  This is less of a problem in my upper level classes though because I have more autonomy in what I cover and my evaluations are still good in those classes as well.  Another possible reason they have improved is because we have become stricter on attendance and all students who I withdraw for too many absences can't do the evaluation.

I am concerned about this because I truly want my students to learn.  Unfortunately we don't track how students do in the next class.  I am also concerned because the tenure process has changed from being decided by my chair to a committee of faculty.  I feel that they may jump to the conclusion that I must be too easy.
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artalot
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« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2016, 11:46:18 am »

Firstly, I would look at your grade breakdown. If your course average is high, then you might have a legitimate concern. You could also try snagging a few middle of the road students who have gone on to the next course and asking them if they felt that your course adequately prepared them. But, it's worth noting that we are supposed to get better at teaching the more we do it. You may just have hit your stride.
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caracal
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« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2016, 1:11:13 pm »

Some negative evaluations aren't a sign that you are a bad teacher, but that doesn't mean that very good ones are a sign that something else is wrong. It sounds like your class in on par with others in terms of difficulty, so I don't see how this could be a problem.
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giacomo
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« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2016, 2:08:33 pm »

I agree with the advice that you look at your grade distribution. If it is consistent with the distribution of other faculty, you could include it in your tenure review materials.
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geheimrat
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« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2016, 11:15:06 am »

Thank you for the responses.  I have compiled my grade distributions for each class since I started, but I don't have access to the distribution of the department as a whole.  From conversations with some colleagues  I know that mine are higher than some and lower than others.  The pass rates are extremely variable from section to section and I teach so many different classes that the sample size for each class is fairly small.  For example the main intro class we all teach my lowest ABC rate is 43% and my highest is 77%, but I have only taught six sections of the class.  In the class with the 77% rate there was only one A however.

For some reason in my evaluations only two people out of all of the over 200 of my students put down they thought they would receive a D or F. This surprises me because their grade is continually available online and I contact students who are failing.  I don't know what to do about this if anything.
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cmeagher7
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« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2016, 11:32:24 am »

Quote

For some reason in my evaluations only two people out of all of the over 200 of my students put down they thought they would receive a D or F. This surprises me because their grade is continually available online and I contact students who are failing.  I don't know what to do about this if anything.

D/F students don't do things like check their grades online or even stay on top of their college email, unfortunately.
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leobloom
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2016, 9:30:31 pm »

I am rarely in a position to send e-mails to students who are at risk of failing, among my 200+ cohorts. But I do a good job at posting grades and grade distributions on the CMS (and I also show the grade distributions in class after each test, so that those who forget to check their grade are implicitly reminded to do so.)

This semester I most likely had the grade averages higher than most in a specific course. This was due to a combination of students better than usual, improved teaching, and having reminded the students to consider choosing door #2 before the last drop date. Given this I had drop rates higher than others', but the DFW rate is pretty much where it should be.

Student evaluations were not released yet.
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geheimrat
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2016, 10:57:57 pm »

My ABC rate has gone up slightly and my evaluations have went up significantly since I have started giving daily quizzes a few semesters ago.  I think this is because they have to study at a more uniform rate instead of cramming for each exam and it also serves as continual review. Their performance on the final exam has also improved especially among the C students.  Creating and grading these quizzes takes quite a lot of time.  A concern is that some of my C students who take the subsequent course may not do so well if they only have a few exams, but I don't know how to help them see that studying more regularly is beneficial without having the quizzes as incentive.
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caracal
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2016, 11:14:16 pm »

My ABC rate has gone up slightly and my evaluations have went up significantly since I have started giving daily quizzes a few semesters ago.  I think this is because they have to study at a more uniform rate instead of cramming for each exam and it also serves as continual review. Their performance on the final exam has also improved especially among the C students.  Creating and grading these quizzes takes quite a lot of time.  A concern is that some of my C students who take the subsequent course may not do so well if they only have a few exams, but I don't know how to help them see that studying more regularly is beneficial without having the quizzes as incentive.


Yes, I do that too, and I also find it helps prop up the bottom of the class a little, although I started doing it because I got sick of class discussions where nobody had done the reading. It is really mostly about student institutional culture. I teach at two places right now and at one of them the vast majority of students will do the reading just because they think that is what they should do. The other place they just won't without incentives.
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mystictechgal
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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2016, 12:19:02 am »

Quote

For some reason in my evaluations only two people out of all of the over 200 of my students put down they thought they would receive a D or F. This surprises me because their grade is continually available online and I contact students who are failing.  I don't know what to do about this if anything.

D/F students don't do things like check their grades online or even stay on top of their college email, unfortunately.

Are you even sure that the two who noted that expectation actually received a D/F grade?

As a recent student I, too, had regular access to my grades, and I did track them. But, there were a few classes where I felt so out of my comfort level that I absolutely would have said that I expected a grade of D/F, even knowing that the numbers said that I was tracking otherwise.

After so many years of math phobia I remain stunned that I managed to graduate with a 3.46 GPA while majoring in two math-heavy subject areas. Even with diploma in hand and the GPA recorded, I'm reluctant to apply for jobs in the fields because I'm afraid I'm not good enough to be considered.

What I'm trying to illustrate is that while your D/F students may have expected something better, some of your B/C students (even some of your A students) may have anticipated something far worse and answered accordingly. At the end of the term paranoia has a way of setting in. There is the sense that you must have screwed up the weighting somewhere or that you've phenomenally bombed the final or something else that will cause you to fail. So, unless you can see the evals and identify the handwriting, don't be so sure that the students who thought they would fail are the ones who actually did.
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caracal
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« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2016, 12:51:08 am »



Are you even sure that the two who noted that expectation actually received a D/F grade?

As a recent student I, too, had regular access to my grades, and I did track them. But, there were a few classes where I felt so out of my comfort level that I absolutely would have said that I expected a grade of D/F, even knowing that the numbers said that I was tracking otherwise.

After so many years of math phobia I remain stunned that I managed to graduate with a 3.46 GPA while majoring in two math-heavy subject areas. Even with diploma in hand and the GPA recorded, I'm reluctant to apply for jobs in the fields because I'm afraid I'm not good enough to be considered.

What I'm trying to illustrate is that while your D/F students may have expected something better, some of your B/C students (even some of your A students) may have anticipated something far worse and answered accordingly. At the end of the term paranoia has a way of setting in. There is the sense that you must have screwed up the weighting somewhere or that you've phenomenally bombed the final or something else that will cause you to fail. So, unless you can see the evals and identify the handwriting, don't be so sure that the students who thought they would fail are the ones who actually did.

There was a This American Life on this. There is research that shows that people who are bad at something generally don't know they are bad at it. The same lack of skill that makes them bad at something also makes them unable to judge their ability. People who are good at something,  tend to overestimate the abilities of others and so assume they aren't as good as they are. You would think that actually being able to see the grades would change this, but I suspect it doesn't entirely.
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conjugate
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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2016, 1:40:51 am »



Are you even sure that the two who noted that expectation actually received a D/F grade?

As a recent student I, too, had regular access to my grades, and I did track them. But, there were a few classes where I felt so out of my comfort level that I absolutely would have said that I expected a grade of D/F, even knowing that the numbers said that I was tracking otherwise.

After so many years of math phobia I remain stunned that I managed to graduate with a 3.46 GPA while majoring in two math-heavy subject areas. Even with diploma in hand and the GPA recorded, I'm reluctant to apply for jobs in the fields because I'm afraid I'm not good enough to be considered.

What I'm trying to illustrate is that while your D/F students may have expected something better, some of your B/C students (even some of your A students) may have anticipated something far worse and answered accordingly. At the end of the term paranoia has a way of setting in. There is the sense that you must have screwed up the weighting somewhere or that you've phenomenally bombed the final or something else that will cause you to fail. So, unless you can see the evals and identify the handwriting, don't be so sure that the students who thought they would fail are the ones who actually did.

There was a This American Life on this. There is research that shows that people who are bad at something generally don't know they are bad at it. The same lack of skill that makes them bad at something also makes them unable to judge their ability. People who are good at something,  tend to overestimate the abilities of others and so assume they aren't as good as they are. You would think that actually being able to see the grades would change this, but I suspect it doesn't entirely.

You're thinking about the Dunning-Kruger effect.  It explains so much.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect[url=http://][/url][/url]
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Unfortunately, I think conjugate gives good advice.
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