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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Grades and Student Feedback

One of the things that I have a great deal of interest in, both from a personal standpoint (on a couple of levels) and from a professional standpoint. I like student feedback, in fact when I teach I always try to get feedback at multiple times throughout the semester (usually through a mid-term evaluation, as that way I can try and make some adjustments to benefit the current group of students). And I also value the end of semester feedback from students. I think both of these things make me a better teacher and allow me to design and deliver stronger courses.

Having said that, I also recognize that in many instances the feedback that I get from the students in these evaluations are largely tied to the grades that the students are receiving - at least in many instances. Like New Kid on the Hallway (see Does this mean I'm shallow?), I knew when my name showed up on Rate My Professors and I was a little hurt when it was a very negative (and I thought somewhat uninformed and unfair comment - I don't give students classes off and even though I have rubrics for everything I somehow grade funny, but anyway). I can understand that this was probably a student who had an axe to grind, most likely about a grade, which may be particularly true given that about a year later three very positive and more realistic, but yet still a little constructive comments appeared.

But the tie to grades and the affect that it has on the type of feedback that students provide on evaluations cannot be ignored. And I wonder if it isn't tied to the issue that Johannes discusses on his blog, Learning Rocks, with the post Self-made grade inflation?. If you haven't read some of his suggestions, it is worth a look as he has some good ideas.

So, in an academic environment where what the student shades in for those last two questions (i.e., how do you rate the course, and how do you rate the instructor) do have impact on your promotion and tenure process, and it is fairly well known that a student who has been getting poor grades all semester is more likely to shade in the 0, 1 or 2 - what do you do? In reading what professors have to say over at Rate Your Students, I can't say that I'm hopeful that I'll be the exception with classes of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed stuents who are ready to learn and prepared for my course - so what do you do and how does that decision affect your academic career? I don't know yet because I'm not quite there, so you tell me!

Tags: academy, tenure, graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

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