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Free the Course Evaluations
Here’s a good first step that Phil can make, one that would signal his commitment to improving undergraduate academics: open up the College’s official course evaluations, the ones that all students complete at the end of each term. Right now, by repeated faculty vote, this information is only available to professors. John Strauss brought this idea up in the Review recently. Good for him.
The literature in education shows that even grade school students effectively identify high-quality teachers. And when the Review, despite what you may think of its politics, lists the fourteen best teachers at the College, the professors chosen are hardly among the superficially charismatic or the easiest graders on the faculty (Meir Kohn? Pamela Crossley?). Surprising as it may seem at times, most students are in Hanover to get an education, and they take courses from people who make a serious effort to teach them something. As we have previously reported, on two occasions the Econ department decided as a group to respond to ever-increasing enrollments by toughening up the workload in all of its offerings. The result? Not what these specialists in incentives expected: enrollments went up even more.
So why the resistance to publishing the detailed course evaluations that the College systematically gathers? After all, students hunger for this information. And the College’s best profs certainly would not oppose being noted for their excellence.
In fact, only professors who would be rated poorly in these evaluations feel themselves threatened by a change in policy.
Are weak profs the people that we want to protect at the College? Should their interests be guiding policy? I’d think that the converse should be true. To talk incentives again, professors who do not score highly in evaluations have an obvious course of action to take in response: improve their teaching. Let’s ramp up the pressure on these folks, rather than allowing mediocre professors to cover up their poor performance because their negative reviews are not open to student scrutiny.
This subject should be on the agenda of the next faculty meeting. Phil can send a strong signal by giving students access to evaluations, and more importantly, by doing so, he can take a serious step toward improving the College.
Addendum: Word has filtered back to Dartblog that sharing course evaluation information with students is currently a subject of interest to Phil Hanlon. Let’s hope that common sense and students’ interests carry the day.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…