Evaluating the Evaluators

Article excerpt

Consider these lines from student critiques: "It is unfair to drop someones (sic) grade because he/she missed too many days." "We were bombarded with information about authors that was boring with fact." "He had a tendency to be critical on objective manners (sic) such as word choice." "It is really hard to come to class when every day the material is being shoved down your throat." "The instructor needs to lower her standards." "I also think 2 novels to read outside of class is a bit too much. It's hard enough to get through 1." "She should have more concern for her students, their stress levels, and their GPAs!"

Several times a year, college professors see similar pleas for easier workloads and lower standards on their course/instructor evaluations. Some professors manage to ignore them. They know that many students - to make up for an inadequate high school education - must be encouraged to work hard in college. And they know that most students perform to standard - the more demanded, the more learned.

But a couple of factors are making it harder for professors to "do the right thing." First, the number of students who resent tough course loads and high grading standards seems to be growing as high schools continue to pump them out underprepared and disengaged. And professors are encountering more and more of these students who resent, and in some cases actively resist, efforts to educate them. Some instructors, after enduring days, months, and years of scowls and pleas, eventually capitulate and make students happy "consumers" by dumbing down their courses. On top of this, there are institutional incentives for professors to do the "wrong" thing. …