Thursday, December 17, 2015

Researchers Seek Civically-Engaged Millennial Faculty

magnifyingglass_iconThe American Democracy Project (ADP) is currently searching for Millennial Generation (anyone born after 1981) faculty members from across the nation who utilize service-learning techniques regularly in teaching their courses.

Those who meet that description are eligible to participate in a research study conducted by Texas A&M University- Central Texas researchers that will explore how millennials, who tend to be highly civically-engaged. are teaching courses that promote civic engagement, community service, and social justice at the university level. The researchers will also be exploring how the civic engagement of millennial faculty has been influenced by their own undergraduate experiences. This research is important to continue to grow the benefits of service-learning techniques that improve learning outcomes for students and create practical benefits for their communities.

If you are interested, please see the full announcement on the ADP blogsite for contact information!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Student Evaluations of Teaching Useful - in Context

Students' evaluations of professors have great value for administrators who seek an accurate
assessment of the quality of teaching at their universities. This is in turn drives their decisions regarding faculty promotion, pay rates, and termination.

One of the problems with placing such heavy weight on student evaluations in making decisions about faculty employment is that students don't always give valid feedback. Students, like most people, don't always play fair. Students will sometimes give poor scores (not to mention rude comments) in evaluations, not because the scores are warranted, but because they felt the class was too challenging or made them work too hard. When these ratings are included in aggregate, they punish professors who simply teach difficult courses or demand high standards from their students.

How can student evaluations be more useful? A recent article outlines some suggestions on using student evaluations of teaching more effectively. The best ideas seem to revolve around cross-checking teaching quality using measurements other than student evaluations alone. For instance, finding innovative ways to assess how much students are learning by the end of their courses, rather than asking them to solely self-report how much they liked the experience of the course, is one way to supplement assessment. Other ideas that have been successfully implemented include classroom observations (both scheduled and surprise) by administrators or senior faculty, spot-checking faculty practices feedback on assignments, and including multiple iterations of student evaluations throughout the semester to give professors a chance to adjust their strategies. The Office of Faculty Enhancement at UNF provides a number of alternatives to end-of-semester student evaluations.

Context is very important in using results from student evaluations, especially because research has shown positive correlations between students' expected grades and their evaluation scores. Essentially, student evaluations are important because they provide direct feedback on how students feel about their professors' ability to educate them. However, they do not tell the whole story, must be taken in their rightful context, and need accompaniment to be used as a key metric in faculty assessment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Testing Critical Thinking using Multiple Choice Questions - Part 2

The General Education Program and the Office of Faculty Enhancement invites faculty to a continuing discussion and workshop on using multiple-choice questions to assess critical thinking. 

Teaching and assessing critical thinking in student work is a priority for many faculty. Faculty typically assess critical thinking through essay test questions and lengthy assignments, both of which are time consuming to grade. Multiple choice questions are quick to grade but typically are constructed to test recall and comprehension. 

In the first workshop of this series, participants evaluated multiple-choice questions on whether they assessed two important skills associated with critical thinking, analysis and evaluation. 

In this workshop, participants will work collaboratively in crafting multiple-choice test items that assess analysis and evaluation. This event will be especially helpful to those teaching General Education courses that satisfy the Critical Thinking requirement. Participants are encouraged to bring with them 3-5 multiple choice questions that they would like to convert to critical thinking questions or that they would like to modify and enhance to assess critical thinking. 
RSVP is required, email 

Testing Critical Thinking using Multiple Choice Questions
Friday, December 4th, 2015, 11:30-1:00 p.m.
COAS Dean's Conference Room, Bld 51, Room 3201
RSVP required, email