Archive for Friday, March 4, 1994

NEW REGENT URGES BETTER EVALUATIONS OF FACULTY

March 4, 1994

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A state regent believes KU and other public universities need better assessment of teaching faculty.

A Lawrence member of the state Board of Regents on Thursday called for more consistent evaluation of faculty teaching.

Regent John Hiebert also told Kansas University faculty and students at a University Council meeting that student evaluations should carry more weight in the assessment of teaching skills.

"It is important for student evaluations to be used in a more consistent manner," said Hiebert, chair of the regents' academic affairs committee.

Hiebert said the chief academic officer of one regent university -- not KU -- said one-fourth of tenured faculty at that school weren't performing satisfactorily.

"I did not draw inferences from this to other institutions," he said.

However, Hiebert said, the problem of faculty burnout wasn't isolated to a single university.

Peter Johnsen, professor of education psychology and research, said Hiebert shouldn't generalize about faculty performance.

"We seem to be in the vulnerable position of being whipping posts," he said.

The regents' director of academic affairs, Martine Hammond-Paludan, said today the unnamed administrator's 25 percent assessment could be misinterpreted.

"It's important not to jump to conclusions that don't look at the details," she said.

Sandra Zimdars-Swartz, professor of religious studies, told Hiebert faculty evaluations should reflect the reality of university teaching.

Fewer college students are willing to accept responsibility for learning, she said.

Hammond-Paludan said faculty throughout the regents' system were alarmed by the passive nature of students.

"It's, 'Here I am. Fill me up with knowledge,'" she said. "I hear a lot of faculty members very frustrated about that."

Don Marquis, professor of philosophy, said scores on teaching evaluations were tricky to decipher.

"There are lots of ways to raise evaluations that have very little to do with one's teaching," he said.

Marquis said more emphasis on student assessment of faculty leads to grade inflation. Faculty interested in better reviews simply give higher grades, he said.

He said faculty also would avoid negative assessments by avoiding required courses. Students give better scores to faculty in elective courses, he said.

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