Phi Beta Cons

One Last Thing on Faculty Evals…

Another correspondent, Jeannine McDevitt, writes in with some anecdotal evidence on the grade-inflation-in-the-face-of-student-evaluation (hey, that rhymes!) issue:

I am a tenured faculty member at a small community college. My own institution is very reasonable in interpreting student evaluations.
However, last summer I attended a conference for faculty who had recently received tenure or were soon eligible, and I met a woman who was eligible for tenure at one of my state’s universities. Her student evaluations after her first semester of teaching were very negative, and she was called in before the tenure and promotion committee to warn her that her performance was unacceptable. Her faculty mentor spoke to her privately afterward and asked her about her grading. His advice to her was to give more A’s and B’s so that the students would like her. She was angry, but she decided to try that approach as an experiment the next semester. The result? Much more positive student evaluations, and a commendation from the committee on her “progress” as a teacher.
As far as I know, no one at my college has ever been told to inflate grades so as to become popular with students, but I am sure that my colleague at the conference was not the only person who has encountered such advice.
By the way, a couple of years ago, my college’s Faculty Senate proposed that administrators be evaluated by the faculty and staff members whom they supervise. The proposal was, of course, rejected on the grounds that faculty could not possibly understand all the many responsibilities of administrators.

Travis Kavulla is director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the R Street Institute. He is a former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners who held elected office as a Montana public service commissioner for eight years. Before that, he was an associate editor for National Review.

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