Inflation of grades and evaluation of professors

In this article on why students should fear grade inflation, Justin argues:

A second stage of this movement is for all higher education administration to drop the practice of using student evaluations for consideration in the reappointment and promotion process. For starters, students simply are not qualified to judge what they have learned from a PhD in any given area. Secondly, they are generally not emotionally mature enough to understand the impact of their evaluations or to objectively consider the real results of what they have experienced. Finally, the use of student evaluations for review of faculty creates a situation in which the professors who are the least rigorous (easiest) may receive artificially inflated evaluations, while those who are most challenging for students, may receive artificially low evaluation numbers.

Are student evaluations considered in the reappointment and promotion process in higher education?   I think only institutions could answer this critical question.

Are students (starters) qualified to judge what they have learned from a PhD in any given area?  Why are student starters not able to judge any PhDs?  In a world where we often “judge”, “criticise” and comment in open spaces, isn’t it true that we should acquire a literacy and competency in face of judgment?   Judgment could be harsh on us, but isn’t it true that even Socrates, Jesus Christ were judged?  So, instead of viewing judgment as a negative “sentence” on us, we may look at judgment as just part of our life, where we could exploit opportunity of learning.

Are students rating their professors based on the grades they receive?  Is it like – You “A” me, I “A” you, You “C” me, I “C” you?  May be there are some truths.  There are however, lots of assumptions about evaluations on professors teaching, based on such “subjective” grading.

In this post professor deeply hurt by students evaluation:

“Students and the enormous revenue they bring in to our institution are a more valued commodity to us than faculty,” Dean James Hewitt said. “Although Rothberg is a distinguished, tenured professor with countless academic credentials and knowledge of 21 modern and ancient languages, there is absolutely no excuse for his boring Chad with his lectures. Chad must be entertained at all costs.”

Has education turned into an “entertaining education business”?  Is the goal of education entertaining students?  May be, if such education is about entertainment.

Are students being treated as customers in the case of Higher Education Institutions?  At a time where Customers always come first in the business world, is it solely about making students happy, or turning students into happy customers?   This could be one of the biggest myths in 21st century.

There are lots of challenges when it comes to evaluation and assessment of both professors and students in Higher Education.

I wonder if any one could escape the judgment by others any more, especially in Higher Education.

Should a professor always be tough in pushing students to learn?  Is academic rigor as proclaimed by professors always leading to more learning by learners?  What sort of education and learning are measured as “good” or “great” learning by learners?  Could one apply these concepts to MOOCs, xMOOCs in particular?

I think there are many reasons for increase in grades at colleges and universities.  The abundance and ease of access of information available from the web and network may account for students’ improvement in their learning, and the achievement of higher grades.  Besides, in an era where grades are still used as measure of professors and students’ performance, would it be natural to “inflate” the grade, by means of less demanding assignment or tests or raising the marks artificially for the benefits of both parties?

What could we learn from the pressure to award a high grade or to inflate the grade in Higher Education?

What I think we should aim for in Higher Education is not merely pushing students to work hard, but to work smart.    Though it is important to maintain “academic standards” from an education perspective, it is far more important to prepare students to become an autonomous learner and a critical thinker, so they are able to explore and reflect deeper into the problems they are facing in community and society. This would in turn help both professors and learners in developing solutions with a holistic perspective.    This would further encourage both professors and students to learn together in the community, not just to “please each others” for the sake of survival (for the professors) or getting a higher grade (for the students).

Is it time to reflect on what it means by grade inflation where any one could manipulate the grade, in order to please the customers (students)?  Is grade inflation an issue in Higher Education?  How would you tackle this “wicked problem”?  What is the real value of higher education to students?


#PLENK2010 Assessment and Evaluation

I just managed to watch & listen to Elluminate Recording of Wednesday. I read Jenny’s post on evaluation and assessment, and would like to respond and reflect on it.

For me, assessment is relating to a collection of evidence which could be in form of portfolios, blogs & blog posts, forum postings, twitter postings, action projects, videos, podcasts, wikis, research projects, research papers, artifacts, etc. or in typical classroom/workplace learning – assignments, tests, examination, observation, questioning, tasks, projects, assessment activities etc.

Evaluation, however could be relating more to a product, service or process. Evaluation of a product or process – like an evaluation of the assessment tasks, courses, curriculum, through surveys, reviews, discourse, and in the case of PLENK, it could mean the evaluation of tools against set criteria by the learners, or the community in their effectiveness in achieving the learning goals set. Evaluation of support or service  could include that of evaluating the facilitation, teaching, moderation, and evaluation of the supporting service or tools could include that of evaluating the LMS, Moodle, RSS, Facebook, Twitter, blogging providers, wikis providers, connections, aggregators, ICT support etc.

So, evaluation of the effectiveness of the tools, service and support is quite different from the assessment of the learners (which is based on the collection of evidence).

We could recognize ones previous learning (i.e. recognition of prior learning) based on assessment – collection of evidence that prove ones achievement of the learning outcomes, and meeting of performance criteria as stipulated in the units of competency.

We could evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the recognition and or assessment process based on certain evaluation criteria – such as the auditing of the assessment process (based on checklists, how evidences are collected, how judgment is arrived, the appeal process, etc.), assessment validation meetings (between assessors), and the overall assessment reviews.

In the case of PLENK, the evaluation process could include whether the assessment process (for instance certain assessment tasks which relate to the creation of blogs and setting up of blog posts by participants, the comments made, the participation in blogs discussion, the participation in various media etc. as set forth or negotiated by participants, and the action learning and reflection which are evidenced in the blog posts.  These could also relate to the critical literacies which include syntax, semantics, pragmatic, and critical thinking as revealed in blog posts) have been achieved as “planned” either by the facilitators or by the participants, and that may take the form of a combination of self and or peer evaluation of the assessment process, and the review of the effectiveness of such learning tools in learning.