Evidence of a failed assignment

April 20, 2011 § 12 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I had my annual review. And I subsequently blogged about it. Twice.

Yesterday, I completed my students’ blog grades for the semester and had Excel do all the math for me. I utilized my Average and Sum formulas, and these are the results.

Spring 2010: I think I have a different concept of "failure"....

Clearly my students failed to remember their blogs, three days a week (including Sunday nights).

Obviously they failed to complete the assignment in a satisfactory manner.

I had a horrible idea that wasted not only my students’ time but mine as well.


And, in case you were curious, these are the results from the previous semesters.

Summer 2010: the pilot class

Fall 2010: section 1

Fall 2010: section 2

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§ 12 Responses to Evidence of a failed assignment

  • Lisa says:

    I love how the slackers who complain (because you know the ones who didn’t do the assignment are the ones who complained about the assignment) cause all the problems. Seriously, why do we focus on the minor negative rather than the major positive?

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Thank you, Lisa! You’re so right. That’s my biggest problem with evaluations like the ones we use. I understand that we need to have some sort of assessment measure to help the department understand weaknesses and strengths–I get that. It’s ideal. But the problem is that students’ evaluations seem to be given heavier consideration than the teacher’s individual portfolio, overall course productivity (my reviewer never asked for these numbers, for instance), and even the occasional senior faculty observation. What bothers me is that the student evaluations tend to forget that these students are asked to comment on the class as a whole, but students don’t typically have a clue how their classmates as a whole have performed. How can they comment on an entire class? How can their comments been taken to assess an entire class? I remember when I was an undergraduate my course evaluations were often self-deprecating or sometimes even scathing if I felt particularly miffed by a teacher. Often my comments shouldn’t have been taken to stand as a true evaluation of the teacher’s effectiveness. But the sad truth is that I’m sure those evaluations were used in my professors’ annual reviews…and I just hope there weren’t negative ramifications just because I was a 19-year-old angst-ridden teenager.

  • Jeri Keenan says:

    They couldn’t be bothered to do the assignment. How is that a failure on the assignment’s part?

    • Mrs. H. says:

      1. You’re absolutely right there. 2. All those A’s in all four classes tells me that they did do the assignment! I don’t know where the idea comes across that the majority of my students forgot to do the blogs. Clearly they didn’t!

  • Robert says:

    One of the first things that I learned in my statistics class many years ago in my alternate life as a Psychology student, was that the data you collect is only as credible as the assessment measure used to collect it.

    The department has a flawed assessment measure.

    While student evaluations serve an important role (lord knows I used my eval to great success to inform the college of education about a professor who was NOT using good instructional methods and was quite racist in her approach to the course and her dealings with students [and yes, I know “racist” is a damning label, but when you say in the front of class that “the only ethnic group the university cares about are blacks”…I think it’s qualified]), they are not the end-all-be-all of a quality instructor assessment. There needs to be much more oversight and the person charged with doing the review needs to be able to have some first-hand accounts of your methods that DOES NOT come from your students. Anybody who knows what the term “sampling error” means should understand that.

    But, like I said last night, i think the time for snark has passed. You have a VERY good, pedagogically sound tool in these blogs–one that I will unabashedly steal for my own purposes. I think it’s time to start put more stock in your own data and less in somebody’s who only has a portion of the information. Unfortunately, we have to be our own champions sometimes. I certainly think these blogs are successful and that you should wear that classroom-success as a badge of pride.

    • Lisa says:

      Go Robert! You are one smart man! Amanda, I think that sometimes evaluations serve a purpose, on rare occasions, especially if they are given time to make full comments. However, that said, I’ve learned to take it all with a grain of salt. If your faculty reviews are only based on student evaluations, then that system is a completely fault system. So listen to your wise husband and your experienced virtual friend–believe in yourself, your data, and your experience in the classroom. We do.

      • Mrs. H. says:

        Well, I want to clarify that my review isn’t based solely on student evaluations. But they are given a great deal more weight than I think they should be.

  • Tori Nelson says:

    If anything I think this just shows that college students can be lazy shitheads. Your concept and your assignment aren’t at fault in the least!

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Haha, thanks for the support Tori! 🙂 I don’t think my concept or assignment are at fault either. Obviously the students did really well on the assignment! 🙂

  • Amen, to all of the above! Since when did a student’s failing the course mean the course failed? I think the logic is pretty BASIC! Does your department need a basic lesson in cognitive errors? Good God, this is pathetic! Who are these tenured big-shots who can’t do fundamental logic!

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Well, let me clarify that those screenshots aren’t from the overall course grades, just the grades from the blogs. And I think that when 70% of students get an A it’s an incredibly good sign! 🙂 To be fair to my reviewer, he didn’t see these numbers. If he had wanted them, though, I would have been happy to provide them.

  • Lacy says:

    This link doesn’t have anything to do with your blogs, and it’s rather old, but I still thought it was highly appropriate in light of previous discussions about student evals. Enjoy! 🙂


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