Monthly Archives: March 2016

Teacher evaluation: how much it shows the truth?

This semester I am teaching principle of microeconomics. My class is a large class with more than 100 students. This is my first time that I teach such a large class and in this view, it is a fascinating experience. I have a policy to ask from my students to give me a feedback about my teaching. I ask my student to fill out a survey and also write their comments in the middle of semester. This semester I asked from students before spring break and more than 65% of class filled out the survey. The survey helps me a lot to improve my teaching skill and after the spring break I try to apply some of the feed back I got into my teaching approach. However, I found their evaluation is not completely accordant with reality. For instance, I do my best to bring the real world examples into class and since the course is talking about the theory of microeconomics, most of the time it is hard to find a good example that matched with real life situation. I showed them a video of presidential candidate to explain different economic systems. I found a graph that shows younger people tend to vote to Bernie whereas middle aged people tend to vote for Hillary and from this example and graph, I explained the notion of opportunity costs. I talked about Martin Shkreli case which increases the price of a drug used for curing AIDS by more than 700% overnight last September and then I ask a question why he can do it easily without being worry to loose money and from this approach I explained the notion of elasticity of demand. All in all, the feed back I gained was that they don’t get examples from real world and they don’t know how these theories can be applied into real world. I also get a feed back for instance that I read from slides while I never do that and I don’t remember I teach by reading slides. After the survey was closed, I think a lot how much these surveys and teaching evaluation questionnaire shows the reality? When I consider the part of the survey which was related to evaluation of students, almost all of students read the course carefully, do their assignments regularly and attend in class seriously, but when you consider the course and teacher evaluation, students tend to be pessimistic and think that all of their problems with this course comes from a fact that either teacher or books are not helpful and the teacher does not teach effectively. In this atmosphere, I look at teacher evaluation done with a students with lots of doubt. I don’t want to exculpate myself, however, after getting those feedback where part of that (and for sure not all of that) is far from the truth, I am thinking about this question that is teaching evaluation done by students can evaluate truly the teacher? My answer to this question is “No”. In my opinion, student based evaluation of teachers are really good tools for considering teaching effectiveness of a teacher from point of view of those who are going to learn the materials, but this evaluation is not enough. In fact, students are biased and if they think they are not good in a course, they give more negative weight to teacher and they don’t look at themselves that maybe they don’t study hard or take the course seriously. In my view, in addition to student based evaluation, teachers need to be evaluated by their colleagues. The feedback of other faculty members about teaching policy would be much helpful due to their experiences and the fact that their views are not biased. Evaluation of teachers both by students and faculty members can give a big and clear picture to a teacher to improve her positive skills and remove the negative issues from her teaching approach.

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Lessons from learner-center syllabus and thinking about critical pedagogy

Last session in GEDI class we talked about learner-centered syllabus. I have been teaching a large class this semester and from the beginning of semester I think about learning process and how I can stimulate learning environment in class.  The problem in a large and heavily lectured class is most of the evaluating process determines by tests. In a class such as principle of microeconomics  where more than 100 students sit in a class and there is no final project, assignments and exams are only the available tools for evaluation, learning will immolate and the mindset of students become all to get good score rather than learn stuff. It makes sense and it is a rational decision for student to get the good score which means to be good in tests in this situation. I think writing a syllabus using learner-centered is not enough in this situation. The problem is even you emphasize on learning and try to give some roles to students as the learner of the class, at the end of the day students will evaluate based on their scores on tests and everyone knows this game and as a result the rational decision asserts that students just focus on materials which tend to be part of the tests rather than learning in a general way. From the early of the semester I have this challenge and I could not solve this problem yet. For me, learning is more important than the grade. I think my responsibility is to teach in a way to construct knowledge of microeconomics theory and give a chance to my student to think critically about what I teach to them. As Freire said in critical pedagogy “To teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge.” however, in a large class, teaching in a way to construct knowledge rather than transferring that is always challenging.

However, even I emphasize on learning and not memorizing a lot, students know the rule of game and the rule of game pushes them to get the best point as much as they can. For some students the shortcut to getting good points come from memorizing the materials and this strategy unfortunately works partially. I try to solve this challenge both in class and mostly during my office hour to bring examples from every day life. I also refer students to their intuitions as they ask me questions. Although these strategies  work, the challenge  still remains and in a heavy lecture based large class with having tests and assignment as only tools for evaluation, preparing learning community environment in class becomes a great deal.

 

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