Archive for June, 2013


Don’t Believe the Hype

factorfictionThese days it is often hard to tell when a claim is true when faced with the swirl of rapid fire information that is our modern world. We teach our students to evaluate sources, but even we can sometimes be confused by new and glitzy claims. The article above gives an interesting example of new educational technology and shows how to critically evaluate the claims made by the company. Whether you feel comfortable about your ability to tell myth from fact or you think you need a refresher, Daniel Willingham’s article is a great read.  Originally printed in American Educator in 2012, it provides a guide to help you determine which newfangled innovations are really worth the hype.

Measured Approach or Magical Elixir 

Click above to read the article.


Rate My Nightmare

4175299981_614e7d9dc5_nOne of our colleagues received a call about a position for which she had recently applied. Thinking that she might have gotten the job, she excitedly returned the call, only to find out that she had not. But what the dean told her next would throw her for a loop. She had not been hired because of her low rating on Having a low score on RMP, she was told, was “career suicide,” and she should “do something about it” as quickly as possible.

We all know that student ratings are of are of limited value. That is not to say that professors never do anything wrong. We all have our faults. However, by the time people are moved to post on a rating site, they are usually more inclined to criticize than to praise. Students can also be quite vitriolic when they are angry, particularly about a poor grade. Some students don’t like to be challenged, and when faced with difficulty, they lash out. Finally, there are always those students who simply don’t like the professor or his/her teaching style.

Even well designed evaluation surveys given by colleges are subject to students’ whims and biases. RMP asks students only four questions, and one of them is whether the class is easy (let alone rating the instructor as “hot” or not). Why would anyone use such ratings as a serious measure of a professor’s teaching ability?  I agree that they might give a professor a general idea for adjustments that might be made to a class, but they cannot be validly be used as anything more than that.

Tying instructor salaries and hiring options to student evaluations, particularly those at RMP, is not only unsound, but it can only lead to lack of rigor and grade inflation in the classroom as professors scramble for that positive or easy rating. It is hard enough to be a teacher/professor without having to worry that unless you find some creative way to abandon your integrity you might lose your job or not get another one.

On the other hand, maybe we should learn “The Art of the Bogus Rating” and game the system. Gabriela Montell discusses how RMP’s anonymous posting lets some professors take matters into their own hands: “Professors like to dismiss the site as flawed and frivolous at best, and untrustworthy and malicious at worst. However, faculty members are using the site more than they let on, and in all sorts of ways.”


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