Magazine article Times Higher Education

Evaluation System Benefits Easy Riders

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Evaluation System Benefits Easy Riders

Article excerpt

Light workloads and good grades for students get lecturers high teaching scores. Jack Grove writes

Academics and students are tacitly trading light workloads and lenient marking for higher teaching evaluation scores, a study claims.

This unspoken "disengagement compact" helps to explain why student evaluation of teaching (SET) scores at US universities have generally increased while teaching hours have fallen since the 1960s, according to academics at Central Michigan University.

Writing in this month's edition of Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, James Felton and John B. Mitchell, both professors of finance, Peter T. Koper, emeritus professor of English, and Kenneth J. Sanney, assistant professor of business law and regulation, claim that the use of student satisfaction surveys is also the primary cause of grade inflation over the past four decades.

At the heart of the problem is that lecturers' careers are often dependent on achieving high teaching evaluation assessments from students looking for "easy courses with inflated grades", it is argued.

"Faculty who lighten workloads and inflate grades buy high SET ratings and popularity for their courses, hence professional security to the extent that such measures affect personnel decisions," the academics argue.

Lecturers also benefit from setting lighter workloads for students because they are not required to spend endless hours reading and carefully annotating essays, thereby creating time for research which "gets them institutional recognition and promotion", it adds.

"The disengagement pact is a tacit agreement by professors to go easy on workload and grading if students will go easy on SETs and demands on the instructor's time," the scholars say. …

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