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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The National Teaching & Learning Forum Insider

National Teaching and Learning Forum

The National Teaching & Learning Forum Insider 

There’s cognition and there’s affect, but something else lies behind them both in human learning--the Will. William James wrote about it. In the ‘50s we talked about it as “motivation” ; now we speak of “engagement.” What factor or factors explain why some students make it over difficult humps in learning and others keep batting their heads against something and never succeed?
Two articles in the May issue of The National Teaching & Learning FORUM begin to look at this profoundly important aspect of college teaching and learning. The first features an interview with Ray Land (University of Durham, UK), who along with Jan Meyer coined the phrase “threshold concepts,” focusing attention on those difficult bridges students must cross to grasp the essentials of a new discipline. How can faculty identify these points and help students cross them? The ones who make it across have resilience and persistence as well as native ability. Can we serve students better by learning how to assess who have the “psych-capital” to succeed?
The second article turns attention in the other direction, toward students who persist beyond their native abilities. They’ve embraced the slogan that “winners never quit”; they lack “self-knowledge.” Richard Lewine (University of Louisville) is exploring how faculty can help these students learn to wisely assess themselves and find the path that’s right for them?
In addition to these intriguing stories, the issue’s TECHPED column reports on how the Internet’s power seems to have left students feeling like mere spectators in the world of learning. As they see it, “pulse-frequency-coded algorithms” do the research; they’re just block and copiers. Students’ ego formation needs educating as columnist Michael Rogers (Southeastern Missouri State) sees it.
DEVELOPER’S DIARY columnist, Ed Nuhfer’s multi-part exploration of “metadisciplinarity” concludes with a roundup of the most effective pedagogical approaches within the metadisciplines of technology.
And Marilla Svinicki’s (University of Texas at Austin) AD REM . . . reflects on the need for more reflection by both faculty and students on feedback they offer each other on how the classes and semesters they share are going.
--James Rhem, Executive Editor




National Teaching & Learning Forum is a publication of:
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About POD
The Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD) fosters human development in higher education through faculty, instructional, and organizational development.  POD comprises nearly 1,800 members – faculty and teaching assistant developers, faculty, administrators, consultants, and others who perform roles that value teaching and learning in higher education. While POD members come primarily from the U.S. and Canada, the membership also represents many other countries.

The Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education encourages the advocacy of the on-going enhancement of teaching and learning through faculty and organizational development. To this end it supports the work of educational developers and champions their importance to the academic enterprise.  For the full mission statement, see

Description of the POD-AAC&U Organizational Development Institute

The organizational development dimension of our work as faculty developers recognizes that faculty members are part of a larger system, the dynamics of which affect their behavior as instructors. As faculty developers we seek to influence the structures and processes of the colleges and universities in which we work to create an environment that supports excellence in teaching and student learning and development.


Since 2009, POD has conducted a one-and-a-half day Organizational Development Institute (ODI)  immediately before the AAC&U Annual Meeting, typically held in January either in Washington, DC or a major West Coast city such as San Francisco, CA or Seattle, WA. The next AAC&U Annual meeting will be held January 22-25, 2014 in Washington, DC. The ODI event will be held on Tuesday, January 21st (all day) and Wednesday, January 22nd (morning only). 

Partnering with AAC&U in this way has been valuable to POD in two main ways:

 1) By leveraging our own resources with AAC&U’s more extensive resources, we have been able to provide a valuable professional development opportunity to our membership through the OD institute, and

 2) AAC&U’s extensive publicity for the conference has increased the visibility of POD and educational development to the AAC&U membership and conference attendees, which includes a preponderance of higher education administrators.

 The ODI focuses on the needs of administrators who are leading faculty development initiatives on their campuses.  The ODI may address any number of topics and issues related to organizational development including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The mission of teaching centers
  • Partnership strategies for administration and teaching centers
  • The role of teaching centers in promoting institutional change
  • The role of academic and co-curricular units,  committees, and faculty champions in promoting large-scale change
  • The role of teaching centers in promoting collaboration across campus in service to excellence in teaching and learning.


Facilitators of the Institute are experienced POD members with a proven track record in organizational development and, ideally, visibility within POD and nationally. From time to time individuals who have recognized expertise in OD who are not members of POD may co-facilitate with (a) POD member(s).


In the spirit of volunteerism, facilitators do not receive an honorarium; however, some need-based travel grant opportunities (see further details below in the Facilitator Guidelines) will be made available to qualifying facilitators.  Facilitating these workshops is viewed as a significant honor as well as an important and valuable service to POD. Since the ODI is, strictly speaking, not part of the AAC&U conference, facilitators do not receive complimentary conference registration for the AAC&U conference.


The Professional Development Committee will notify successful applicants of their selection with a letter in June.


Target Audience

The target audience for the ODI is administrators who are tasked with creating a faculty development center or who have relatively new faculty development efforts on their campuses. The ODI is not intended as an introduction to faculty development, but rather a starting point for administrators and those involved with campus-wide organizational change. The Getting Started Pre-Conference Workshop at the POD conference (November, 2013) and the POD Institute for New Faculty Developers (June, 2013) are excellent professional development opportunities for new faculty developers. The POD Leadership Development Institute is held every other summer and will provide another opportunity in Summer, 2014 for those who are interested in creating leadership development opportunities for academic administrators and faculty. 


The 2014 AAC&U Annual Meeting:

The next AAC&U Annual meeting will be held January 22-25, 2014 in Washington, DC. The ODI event will be held on Tuesday, January 21st (all day) and Wednesday, January 22nd (morning only).  For additional information on the AAC&U Annual Meeting, please see AAC&U’s website (

Proposal Submission Guidelines

The CFP submission guidelines appear below.  Applications should be sent to Suzanne Tapp, Professional Development Committee at by 5:00 pm (Central) on Friday, June 28, 2013.  Proposals submitted in hard copy form or incomplete proposals will not be considered by the review committee.

The 2014 POD organizational DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE - Submission guidelines
Applications should be sent to Suzanne Tapp by 5:00 pm (Central) on Friday, June 28, 2013 as an email attachment.   Proposals submitted in hard copy form or incomplete proposals will not be considered by the review committee.

For information on past POD-AAC&U Organizational Development Institutes, please look at last year’s POD ODI:

The following information must be included for the proposal to be considered complete:

Name of Proposed Facilitators, Titles, Institutional Affiliations, Contact Information (including email address), POD Membership Status, and Brief Description of Experience relevant to the OD Institute. Please note Primary Contact Person.

Description and Rationale for the Proposed Topic of the Institute (Please review suggested topics in the earlier section of the CFP above).

Overview of the Proposed Program. Feedback from past participants indicates that an interactive format with significant time allotted to small group interaction is preferred. Proposals should indicate a strategic balance of presentation and interactive, hands-on experiences. Facilitators should also provide ample opportunity for participants to think about the topic of the Institute in the context of their own institutions.

Guidelines for Facilitators of the POD Organizational Development Institute
 What is the POD Organizational Development Institute?

The POD Organizational Development Institute (ODI) is a 1 ½-day professional development event that begins the day immediately before the beginning of the AAC&U annual meeting/conference, typically held the last week of January.

The ODI may address any number of topics and issues related to organizational development including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The mission of teaching centers
  • Partnership strategies for administration and teaching centers
  • The role of teaching centers in promoting institutional change
  • The role of academic and co-curricular units, committees, and faculty champions in promoting large-scale change
  • The role of teaching centers in promoting collaboration across campus in service to excellence in teaching and learning.

What is the purpose of the ODI?

The purpose of the Institute is:

1.     providing an intensive and affordable professional development opportunity for administrators and faculty developers with five or more years’ experience in the area of organizational development related to educational development in higher education,

2.     heightening the visibility of educational development and the POD Network to the AAC&U membership, and

3.     contributing to the financial resources of the POD Network.

How are facilitators and topics for the ODI chosen?

Facilitators and topics for the Institute are selected through a competitive call for proposals process issued to the POD membership and administered by the Professional Development Committee.   The call is issued in late spring each year, the proposal deadline is late June, and the selection is made by early July.

Do facilitators receive an honorarium or reimbursement for travel expenses?

Facilitating the ODI is viewed as an honor and an important service to the POD membership and field at large. In the spirit of volunteerism, facilitators do not receive an honorarium; however, some need-based travel grant opportunities (details below) are made available.  If they wish, the POD President will provide a letter of invitation, which previous facilitators have used to secure support for their travel from their institutions. Because the Institute is officially not a part of the AAC&U annual meeting, facilitators wishing to attend the annual meeting must cover their own registration for the meeting/conference. In accepting the invitation to facilitate the Institute, facilitators also accept the conditions described in the Call for Proposals and in this document.

Need-Based Travel Grants

It is the opinion of the Professional Development Committee that leaders of the ODI should represent the diversity of POD’s membership, especially given the nature of the event and the ODI’s potential to reach higher education professionals previously unfamiliar with the POD Network.

The PDC recognizes that the lack of honoraria, stipend, or other form of financial incentive offered for leading the ODI may be a deterrent to some POD members from smaller colleges or institutions that have limited budgets to support staff travel. Small, need-based grants are available to those potential ODI facilitators who show evidence of need (such as a copy of recent institutional policy prohibiting the funding of staff travel) and meet either of the following eligibility criteria:

  • The full-year equivalent enrollment of the requester’s institution should be below 10,000.
  • The requester’s institution type should be one not typically represented by past POD ODI facilitators: small college, community college, or technical college, etc.

 Applications for need-based travel grants will be reviewed by PDC members. 

How is the ODI publicized?

The ODI is not officially a part of the AAC&U Annual Meeting.  However, POD sponsors a conference session and a preconference session at the AAC&U Annual Meeting that are considered a part of the official meeting schedule.  AAC&U generously publicizes all three events and there are significant opportunities to market the ODI at the annual POD conference as well.

What important deadlines and responsibilities should facilitators note?

By mid-July, the lead facilitator will send the ODI title, description, and the name, titles and institutional affiliations of all facilitators to the Professional Development Committee contact person for the purposes of AAC&U advance publicity for the annual meeting. Please see  for model titles and descriptions from 2012.

By early October, the lead facilitators will collect and send short bios and pictures for all facilitators, which will be posted, along with the Institute title and description, on the POD website.

Facilitators are responsible for designing and communicating the program and any handouts to be distributed at the event. You can be reimbursed for copy expenses from the ODI budget.  Facilitators of past Institutes have also prepared a one-page flyer about the Institute for their own advertising of the event, particularly at the POD conference.

Who is the POD contact person for facilitators?

Hoag Holmgren, POD Executive Director, and a representative from the PDC serve as the contacts. The PDC contact handles most logistical arrangements for the ODI including interactions with AAC&U representatives and the hotel.

How do participants register for the Institute?

Registration for the OD Institute opens immediately following the conclusion of the POD conference. Online registration is through the POD Network website.  The average registration for the ODI is 25-30 attendees; however, the 2013 ODI event was more than 60.  The PDC committee and the POD Executive Director will work with the facilitators to identify an optimal attendance number and establish a cut-off. In addition, the Executive Director will make all efforts to get a list of participants (including relevant information about their institutions and roles) to the facilitators as early as possible.

How many people typically attend the Institute and what are their qualifications?

The ODI typically attracts about 25 participants from a range of institutions with varying levels of experience in faculty development. Even though the Institute description specifically targets administrators, the audience does vary and may include experienced faculty developers or newly appointed center directors.

What is the registration fee for the Institute?

In 2012, the registration fee ranged from $200 for early bird registration to a maximum of $240.

What is the budget for the Institute?

The budget for the ODI balances affordability and a good quality professional development experience for participants with an expectation of a modest contribution to POD resources. Revenue for the Institute depends solely on registration fees from participants.

Institute expenses include

 1.     Food: Catering is extremely expensive, so the Institute provides continuous break refreshments, and schedules a 1 ½ hour break for lunch-on-your own the first full day.

2.     Equipment: Rental of LCD projectors from hotels is also costly, typically $800-900/day. As a result past, facilitators have either provided their own projector/laptop set-up or chosen not to use a projector.  AAC&U has provided a screen, flipchart and markers, and microphones, saving us additional expense. Hoag Holmgren is responsible for communicating these requests to the AAC&U meeting organizers.

3.     Supplies including handouts (if necessary), folders/binders, and name tags. Some facilitators have provided handouts and other materials on a flash drive.

4.     Books: Some facilitators have given participants a book relevant to the ODI as part of the registration fee. Facilitators are responsible for making arrangements with the publisher for discount rates and shipping books to the hotel in time for the Institute, as well as distributing books during the ODI. Cost for the book will be added to the registration fee for the ODI.


The Syllabus Enthusiast: Syllabus Management 101 - A first step towards better syllabus management

eNews from the Syllabus Geeks :: Issue 7


Syllabus Enthusiast

Syllabus Management 101

A first step towards better syllabus management

Is your institution considering getting more rigorous with its management of syllabi but not sure where to begin? Or maybe you have a process in place though you know there’s room for improvement?

In fact, you've probably heard refrains like, "we developed a template for all instructors with boilerplate language but still see the same old policies showing up" or, "our checklist says every syllabus is supposed to have a description and outcomes but they aren't always present - much less consistent - especially among the adjuncts."

Well you're not alone. Over the last year we've seen a wave of interest for institutionally managing syllabi, so we’ve outlined three initial steps you can take - a 101 class, if you will - to get you started with better syllabus management today. 
It all begins with getting a baseline for where you are at today. Are syllabi being collected and coordinated? If so, who's doing it? And is this happening across the campus?

Then you need figure out where you want to (realistically) take the management of syllabi. Are you looking for a simple repository, a fully featured syllabus manager, or somewhere in-between?

Third is the selection of an appropriate tool that supports your vision. These range from commercial solutions to in-house systems, and even open source platforms.
Managing syllabi can be easy as long as you know where to start. Plus it's even possible to do even on a limited budget. Trust us, once you have a solution in place you will wonder what your institution ever did without it. >>

Campus Villain

Like a python you can feel it tightening around you. Today everyone feels the pinch of the budget constrictor. He swallows your best intentions, replacing them with the grim realities of your institution’s ever-stretched resources.
Fortunately some solutions, like Concourse Lite, are effective yet affordable. It's quick to deploy, integrates with existing systems, and helps your institution manage its syllabi more efficiently. And greater efficiency equals more time – for teaching, for student services, and for research.

Client Spotlight

The Power of Syllabi for Accreditation

When Middle States told Fulton-Montgomery CC that they needed a better assessment system to ensure objectives and outcomes were present and consistent on all syllabi, FMCC turned to Concourse Lite - and they couldn't be happier about it. Within a semester of its implementation, they'd exceeded the commission's recommendations.

In addition to saving them time and resources, Concourse Lite soon also took on a life of its own in supporting students and faculty.

Read more about FMCC and what their Dean had to say about its success on their campus. >>

In-house Tools

Leaders in Syllabus Management

What can your institution learn from schools that have already gone through the process of developing a syllabus management system? A lot!

Though unsurprisingly we stand behind Concourse as our system of choice, this time we nod to a handful of schools (NYIT, Clemson, and the University of Alabama) who have all recognized the same challenges with managing syllabi and built in-house solutions to solve them.
Each school has included varying degrees of sophistication to meet their individual needs, from basic repositories to a fully-searchable platform with templating built in. >>

Concourse Lite

Syllabus Management, Fast

Is your institution looking for a system that gets syllabi organized quickly, easily, and affordably? One that benefits students, faculty, and administrators without disrupting processes? Integrates with your LMS and has workflow?

Concourse Lite, our introductory syllabus management platform, is the perfect turnkey solution for schools who want to implement a powerful system centered around existing syllabi. It deploys in days, is well received by faculty, and is cost effective.

Take the first step towards better syllabus management and see how you can have syllabi going from 0 to 60 in seconds. >>
Syllabus Geek vs. arch nemeses Faculty Resistance and Budget Constrictor. The Epic Tour
The Syllabus Enthusiast is a publication for syllabus pioneers, techies, and superheroes by Intellidemia, the Syllabus Geeks. | 518.444.2060 | @syllabusgeeks
Intellidemia, The Syllabus Geeks


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence: Project-Based Learning

kate marshall posted: "Well-designed projects put the students in charge of finding new information, processing this data in accordance with what they already know, and then sharing their newly acquired insights. These are, obviously, skills that will serve students well as the"


New post on Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence


Project-Based Learning

Well-designed projects put the students in charge of finding new information, processing this data in accordance with what they already know, and then sharing their newly acquired insights. These are, obviously, skills that will serve students well as they journey into the world. Moreover, this process also invites students to actively engage with course content in order to construct meaning from their research efforts. Years later, most students will remember the ways they applied course content far more than they'll remember content covered on tests or written about in papers.
From a faculty perspective, transmitting course content in the form of a lecture or a reading is sometimes easier than helping students wrestle with information they've found on their own. Indeed, projects can be more work for both students and faculty. Yet, this sort of in-the-trenches learning provides an opportunity to really see the ways in which students are deeply engaging with course content, solving problems, and applying course concepts. A broken clock is right twice a day: students can guess or deduce the right answers to test questions. Student projects, on the other hand, provide a variety of opportunities that allow the instructor to assess student learning with greater confidence.
Here's a short video about project-based learning. (The content is a great introduction to project-based learning; the faceless people are a little creepy, but, hey, so it goes, right?)
Perhaps you're now thinking about incorporating project-based learning in your next course? Or maybe you already use projects, but you're looking to tweak them a little? Time for some resources! While the exact tools you suggest (or require) students use will be a function of your course content and project parameters, the links below might help you think through building in opportunities for students to act as meaning-makers and knowledge mediators via course projects.
Ten Reasons to try 20% Time in the Classroom. The premise here is that you give over 20% of class time for students to focus on self-directed projects. If you're on the fence about incorporating a major project into your course, these reasons might be worth considering.
The Eight Elements Project-based Learning Must Have. I'm no fan of firm of numbers (nor of the word "must"), but this article does have a handy checklist / simple rubric that is a great starting point for guidelines and rubrics you might give your students.
11 Essential Tools for Better Project-based Learning. Some of these tools we've discussed before, some are new to the blog; some have a cost, and some have lite or educational options that make them free or more affordable. Tools range from mind-mapping and visual thinking tools (Mindmeister and Glogster) that might be helpful in the early stages of the project to digital story-telling and presentation options (Animoto and Audioboo) and  that can help convey final results.
Project Ideas. This extensive list of potential project ideas comes from the Kaneb Center at Notre Dame. Note that this a list of ways students can convey their findings, rather than individual topics themselves.
Developing Alternate Research Assignments with Students and Faculty. This link is actually a short case summary of alternate research assignments in two music courses. In particular, I like the perspective offered here by the inclusion of the subject librarian.
Do you have a successful project that you assign? What makes it work so well? Alternately, if projects haven't been your thing or haven't quite clicked for your courses, tell us about that, too.
kate marshall | May 23, 2013 at 10:35 am | Tags: active learning, presentation, research, students, teaching | Categories: regular | URL:
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Tomorrow's Professor: Can Faculty Misinterpretation and Misuse of Student Rating Results Lead to the "Dumbing Down" of College Education?

Over the last few decades, a considerable body of research, commentary, criticism, and concerns has focused on issues related to the reliability and validity of student ratings of instruction (SRI). Despite impressive research support of SRI reliability and validity, unsubstantiated claims of potential biases continue to flourish and to be believed by faculty. Every so often, a study claims to have identified factors proven to bias SRI results whereas a large body of research evidence refutes these allegations.


Bias of SRI validity ?exists when a student, teacher, or course characteristic affects the evaluations made, either positively or negatively, but is unrelated to any criteria of good teaching, such as increased student learning? (Centra, 2003, p. 498). Thus, in order to establish a factor as biasing SRI validity, it should satisfy two conditions:


1. It should show significant relationships with, or have effect on, results of SRIs; and


2. It should not relate to quality of teaching or to promoting student learning.


Some extraneous factors that have been accused of biasing SRI results are: For the instructor: academic rank, teaching experience, personal characteristics, physical attractiveness, research productivity, and having an Asian accent; For the student: year in college, and personality; For the instructor and student: age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and other diversity issues; For the course?the time of day it is offered, the number of rows in the classroom, and length of class meetings. However, established research shows most consistently (see Chapter 4) that none of these factors satisfies the two conditions as above (Centra, 2008; Remedios & Lieberman, 2008). In some cases, the studies identifying these biasing factors may have significant deficiencies.


This chapter examines relationships between student ratings and several factors that teachers can control. Faculty who believe that these factors can be manipulated to increase instructor ratings while not improving teaching or learning (that is, that they bias SRI validity) may adopt undesired teaching behaviors that would lead to damaging consequences.


Does instructor popularity/expressiveness/enthusiasm bias SRI validity?


Many faculty members believe that SRIs measure instructor expressiveness or style rather than the substance or content of teaching. They argue that ?Most student rating schemes are nothing more than a popularity contest with the warm, friendly, humorous instructor emerging as the winner every time? (Aleamoni, 1999, p.154).


Indeed, interesting and engaging presentations are highly correlated with student ratings of Overall Teaching (Feldman, 2007; Hativa, 1999; 2008; Hativa, Barak & Simhi, 2001) but they are by no means the sole explanation of high ratings. Aleamoni (1999) found that students praised instructors for their warm, friendly, humorous manner in the classroom but frankly criticized them if their courses were not well organized or their methods of stimulating students to learn were deficient.


Expressive instructors may also receive higher ratings because their expressiveness stimulates and maintains student attention and thus helps students learn. Furthermore, expressiveness includes a range of specific behaviors related to good lecturing, such as speaking emphatically, using humor, and moving around during the lecture. Trained observers have found that highly rated faculty exhibit these behaviors more frequently than other faculty (Murray, 2007).


In sum, even if the factor popularity/expressiveness/enthusiasm is found to soundly correlate with student ratings, research evidence indicates that it tends to enhance learning and therefore cannot be considered a biasing factor (Cashin, 1995; Gravestock & Gregor-Greenleaf, 2008).


Does perceived course difficulty/workload bias SRI validity?


In almost all SRI studies, the level of course difficulty or workload is established not by direct measurement of actual difficulty or workload, but rather by student ratings of relevant questionnaire items. Thus, the accurate title for the factor ?course difficulty/workload? should be ?perceived course difficulty? or ?perceived workload?.


Many faculty members are concerned that perceived course difficulty/workload substantially affect student ratings and thus bias SRI results. They believe that there is an inverse relationship between difficulty/workload and ratings on Overall Teaching, that is, the easier and the less demanding the course, the higher the rating on Overall Teaching. Nonetheless, the large majority of studies that examined this issue found almost zero (or very small and non-significant) correlations between course difficulty/workload and teacher ratings, that is, almost no relationships (Cohen, 1981; Marsh and Dunkin, 1997).


In summary, perceived course difficulty/workload shows almost no relationship or only weak relationship with teacher ratings so that it does not bias SRI results.


Do expected grades bias SRI validity?


Many faculty members strongly believe that students tend to rate them more highly when they expect to receive good grades, and that low ratings might reflect students? retribution for low grades (Aleamoni, 1999; Beran, Violato, Kline, & Frideres, 2005). Marsh (1987) found that over two thirds of faculty members hold this belief.


We should note that ?grades? in SRI studies usually refer to expected grades?those that students expect to receive based on their performance to the day of SRI administration, and sometimes on the instructor?s cues, or on rumors from students of previous offerings of the same course. ?Grades? do not refer usually to actual grades because teacher ratings are generally administered during the last few weeks of the term, before students take the final exam and receive their actual grades.


A few studies (Greenwald & Gillmore, 1997; Wachtel, 1998) indeed found a direct relationship between expectations of high grades and positive teacher evaluations. They interpreted this as a clear indication that students reward instructors for lenient grading by increasing their ratings, and thus that grading leniency may bias SRI results. A different possible interpretation is that even if some positive expected grade-SRI correlations are identified, they may reflect a positive effect of expecting high grades on encouraging students to work harder and learn more. Students with these expectations may learn better and would rate the course and teacher highly (Centra, 2003; Feldman, 2007; Marsh & Roche, 2000; Wachtel, 1998). However, the large majority of studies on this issue (e.g., Abrami, 2001; Centra, 2003; Marsh & Roche, 2000; Theall, Franklin, & Ludlow, 1990) deny the existence of such relationships, showing that correlations between expected grades and instructor ratings

  are very small, almost zero.


Altogether, student expected grades and grading leniency are not biasing factors of SRI validity.


Do actual grades bias SRI results?


Because SRIs are usually administered before the final exams take place and grades are assigned, only few studies examined relationships between students? ratings of their teacher and their actual final grades in that course. In studies that did use actual grades, the researchers gathered them at some later point in time. These studies show a very small and non-significant positive association between average class grades and teacher ratings.


Similar to the discussion above on expected grades, even if a small positive association is identified in some studies, it would not indicate bias of the ratings? validity. Positive associations may well indicate that good teachers, those who help their students learn the most and consequently to do well on course exams, tend to be rated highly by their students. In this case, both the higher grades of students and the higher ratings of teachers are well deserved (Feldman, 1976).


All in all, student actual grades do not bias SRI validity.


Can students be manipulated to give faculty higher ratings?


The most popular beliefs among faculty are that they can ?buy? higher ratings by lowering course requirements, that is, that ?bribing? students by entertaining them, watering-down the course material, reducing difficulty/workload, and giving undeserved high grades will translate into higher student ratings (Franklin & Theall, 1991; Heckert, Latier, Ringwald-Burton, & Drazen, 2006; Marsh & Roche, 2000). Of the large number of faculty SRI-related beliefs, these are probably the most potentially damaging, because they may lead faculty to resort to counter-productive teaching strategies. Faculty may be tempted to grade higher and to lower the level of difficulty/workload in order to receive higher ratings from students (Centra, 2003). This, in turn, may lead to grade inflation and to a decline in the amount of effort that students put into their courses. The ultimate consequence could be the ?dumbing down? of college education (Greenwald & Gillmore, 1997). Here are some examples

 for dumbing down course content:


Building the subject slowly from the bottom up, giving lots of examples in class, dropping topics from the syllabus when convenient,

and using homework problems as ?models? for exam problems (Zucker, 2010, p. 821).


There is some evidence that these damaging behaviors have already been adopted by certain instructors:


This performance measurement has lead to both unethical grade inflation and coursework deflation as faculty try to entertain students

rather than educating them? instructors ease grading, inflate grades and deflate course work when SET data is used for faculty

evaluation purposes. By inflating grades, easing grades, and deflating coursework, an instructor games the system and thus, is more

likely to receive positive evaluations (Crumbley et al., 2010, pp. 187-8).


Although many sources have discounted the likelihood of grade inflation resulting from instructors trying to ?buy? better student ratings of instruction, many faculty members still believe that there is widespread manipulation of grades (Franklin & Theall, 1991, p. 1). There is a negative ethical aspect to manipulating situations and students in order to raise ratings. However, one cannot blame SRIs if the real issue/problem is unethical teacher behavior.


The ironic point is that most of these manipulative behaviors have not proven effective in raising teacher ratings as shown below, but nonetheless they continue to be tried out by instructors. The assumption underlying these behaviors is that many students strive for high grades with easy course demands and a low workload. However, research does not support the generality of this belief and on the contrary, there is almost a consensus among experts refuting faculty beliefs about all types of manipulation, as next explained.


Can manipulating difficulty/workload level increase faculty ratings?


Workloads that students perceive as excessive may indeed negatively affect their learning. Overloaded students may develop feelings of stress and failure and adopt unhelpful learning strategies. However, contrary to faculty beliefs that decreasing difficulty/workload will increase their ratings, research evidence shows that if success is too easily achieved as a result of an overly light workload, students may lose interest and devalue such learning. Courses demanding the least amount of work tend to receive lower, rather than higher ratings. Students tend to value learning and achievement more highly when they involve a substantial degree of challenge and commitment and require investing time and effort (Marsh & Roche, 2000). Students seem to appreciate a workload that is of the right magnitude but is still sensible and presents a challenge. Courses for which students indicated that the level of difficulty or the workload was appropriate or that they had expended more effort

 s, were rated higher than other courses. The more effort expended, the higher students perceived the value of the course (Heckert et al., 2006; Marsh & Roche, 2000).


Can manipulating grades? level increase faculty ratings?


Students are not as likely to be positively affected if an ineffective teacher seems to be trying to buy good ratings with easy grades. In fact, the attempt may boomerang (McKeachie, 1997). McKeachie brings as an example a faculty member whose grades were the highest in his department but who received the lowest student ratings. Assigning undeserved higher grades to students may have a negative effect on instructor ratings (Abrami, Dickens, Perry, & Leventhal, 1980). However, the assumption that giving higher grades can raise ratings may be correct if the instructor can convince students that they have learned more than is typical and therefore they deserve the higher grades.


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