Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Excellence in Teaching

Vision 1920 has been focusing too much on research lately. We must remember that the primary mission of the university is teaching. Some of the faculty whiners argue that the time they spend mentoring the students working in their labs should count as teaching, but we all know that's just an excuse to get out of real teaching... the kind where the instructor has to stand in front of a classroom. Like in High School.

To improve the real teaching, our Chancellor last year created an innovative new program called the Teaching Excellence Award. This innovation drew attention to A&M from all over the world! Here's some of what people said:

Inside Higher Education
Ashley strongly disputed the idea -- widely held by researchers -- that student evaluations are not reliable and encourage grade inflation. He characterized the debate as unsettled. "You'll find studies that say it's true and studies that say it's not true," he said. Asked for a study that shows that student evaluations are reliable and don't encourage grade inflation, he said that the article he used in working on the policy was "Student Rating Myths vs. Research Facts," and was published in 1999 in the Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education.

The author, Lawrence M. Aleamoni, is now retired as a professor of education at the University of Arizona. Reached Monday, he said that he did in fact show in his article that some student evaluations can be reliable. But he said that several parts of the Texas A&M policy run counter to his findings and recommendations.

For example, Aleamoni said that the only times he has found student evaluations to be reliable is when they are nationally devised and normed, and not when they are "home grown," as A&M's questionnaire is. Further, Aleamoni said that his research found that students may answer very specific questions about their professors reliably. But broad questions -- such as "Does this professor deserve a teaching award?" -- are the sort that students tend to answer based on student grades.
The Times(UK) Education supplement points to the fact that these kinds of programs have been tried elsewhere
A few of these programmes have got the same sour reception as the bonuses paid to executives of corporations, including failed banks.

News that academics at the University of Florida College of Medicine received $7.6 million in bonuses last year has caused uproar on campus, where budget cuts portend layoffs and slashed academic programmes.
Readers at the Chronicle of Higher Education commented
What a profoundly troubling idea.
What a disgusting (though sadly predictable) degradation of educational relationships.
Having spent well over thirty years as a member of the professoriate, ten of those as an administrator (department chair, associate dean), I thought I had taken the measure of how low the corporate/customer-service model could go: apparently not.
The program proved to be so popular that 300/2000 faculty signed up for it... Some might worry that this program might not be sustainable at a time when A&M is looking at budget cuts. Fear not:
The chancellor said he is committed to the initiative. The initial funding came from existing sources, but he has put in a legislative appropriations request for $12 million to continue funding the program.

"If I had to prioritize my entire budget, this would be first," he said. "If I have to take money out of administration, that's what I'll do."
Vision 1920 is confident that he wasn't talking about System administration. Let's not go too far.

1 comment:

  1. To ensure Texas A&M achieves the standards mandated by Vision1920, we must start acting immediately to have Sarah Palin appointed as the next university president. She has shown the true grit necessary to take on the intellectual elite trying to push the university forward and will bring strong family values into the office of the president. Governor Perry has announced that she will be helping him with his campaign for re-election, and what better way to reward her? For the sake of TAMC, Palin for President!!!