Baker Academic

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Do Good Teachers have Good Student Evals?

This Daily Beast article addresses the complicated relationship between patient satisfaction scores and good medical care. It seems that the most well-liked doctors are not always the best doctors. But it has become monetarily advantageous to score high on patient satisfaction. One easy way to do this is to have very low standards with regard to pain medication.

I wonder if there is an analogy to be drawn between this assessment and student evaluations.




  1. I think that this is generally the case. Having just received my teaching evaluations from the past semester back, I noted a trend of generally high scores, with one particular area scoring on the low side, which was "Teacher effectively answers student questions." I was a bit puzzled by this in that I thought that I gave ample time and as thorough an answer I could to anyone who had a question. However, upon reading the explanations offered by those who cared to do so, I realized that this low rating came due to the fact that I refused to answer questions regarding how to answer the identification questions on the exams (2-3 sentence explanations of a term), as it seemed to me that this would basically be giving them the answer. So, I think you are right. The low threshold for pain meds seems in this case that it might have some analogue with the amount of hand-holding offered on exam questions. I do think that many students come in with the expectation that such is the norm, I even had a few complaints that the essay prompts on the review sheet were different from those on the actual exam (they were, but only with a slightly different emphases, or perhaps a blending of two prompts - not entirely different questions). So yes, it is tough at times, especially when one is expected to have consistently high scores by administrators, and a method for obtaining such is obviously known via evaluations such as these!

  2. A couple semester ago, I received an off-the-chart positive IDEA evaluation from a biblical studies class wherein I did a number of what I'd call "experimental" things including - online course blog forum interaction; syllabus collaboratively created by the students after going over learning outcomes with them (including choice/kind of assignments & exams, if any); online chat class discussion - the week of Thanksgiving break; viewing of short video lectures (of both myself, and more famous folks on YouTube) outside of class time.

    There were moments during the semester when I got a real sense that students were engaging the material outside of class. Other times, not so much. On the last day of class, I gave a brief "surprise" examination - that of course, counted for nothing, and the students knew it. The questions were "extremely basic" about the bible. The average score for the class on this brief exam was a 35/100. I found this result interesting, at least. Magnificent student-evaluation of a class + an apparently very positive encounter with the material on the students' part = an extremely poor performance on a very basic examination. Of course, the next question is how well did the questions on the exam reflect the learning outcomes. And, another: What should the aim(s) be of a biblical studies course populated by late-adolescents, most of whom, by far!, will not ever even desire to become a "biblical scholar."

  3. A little late to the game, I know, but wanted to throw my two cents in as I will admit I've fallen prey to giving a good professor a bad review. Actually, Dr. Keith. (He knows this and I've since apologized profusely and still am embarrassed about it today.) I was a young, naive freshman and had a lot of difficulty in his Intro to Bible class. While his class still may have been a little over the level of an incoming freshman, I'll admit a lot (read: almost all) of the problem was on me. Skipping class, barely staying awake when I did show up, and doing assignments as quickly and thoughtlessly as I could. So when I ended up barely passing the class with a D, I lashed out in my review, and if I recall correctly, so did several other students in that same class.

    Was the problem with Dr. Keith? No. It might have been a little difficult, but this is college. I suppose I shouldn't have expected less. Nevertheless, he got a bad review. I didn't have another class with him until my senior year when I took an independent study Senior Sem with him, where I learned a TON from him because I changed who I was and Dr. Keith kept on being his super smart self.

    I imagine this precise thing happened to you, Dr. Le Donne, while you were at LCU, and I imagine this definitely played into your wrongful dismissal. I never had you as a professor, but I love your work. BUT I know there were students who claimed not to be a fan of you, but I very, very much think it's because those students didn't like being held to a higher standard of learning and nothing to do with your coursework.

    1. Thanks for your reflections, David. I can happily correct you on one point, however. The students at LCU played no part in my departure from the great state of Illinois. In fact, the year that I left I received "best professor" and "best class" honors from student surveys.

      I guess that what I'm saying is that I'm even better than Dr. Keith. Better at my March Madness brackets, better at making potato salad, better at student evals, and better at creating random lists.

      Otherwise, I appreciate your thoughtful comments, David.