"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, January 8, 2017

How Students Evaluate Their Professors

At the end of the semester, students in universities are given the opportunity to evaluate their instructor. How students' evaluations correlate with a teacher's effectiveness is only expected to be weak. In fact, a study from Bocconi University suggests that students' evaluation of an instructor depends on "meteorological conditions". A teacher tends to receive poorer evaluations on either a cold or rainy day.

The following is the reported relationship between students' evaluations and teachers' effectiveness:

Above copied from Economics of Education Review
There is really no meaningful correlation. The question then is why do universities continue this exercise of soliciting evaluations from students. As an instructor, I think it is important for students to have a voice. And going beyond scores, some students actually write comments. I taught a small class this past semester. There were seven students and more than half actually wrote something in their evaluation:


A teacher-student relationship is personal. And I do want to hear from students. Students have their own perspective and indeed, such can not be easily reduced to scores. For this reason, written comments are much more meaningful.

As teachers, we also need to know our students. It is a two-way street, and with constant communication, we likewise will grow as teachers.

"When you focus on kung fu, when you concentrate... you stink.
But perhaps that is my fault. I cannot train you the way I have trained the Five.
I now see that the way to get through to you, is with this."
- Master Shifu, Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Above picture copied from Basement Rejects

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