Saturday, November 26, 2011

Some Questions about Student's Course Evaluation

There are many myths and truths about the value of student's evaluation of a course and of a teacher. There has been a long discussion on what can be done with the information given by these evaluations, from the complete dismissal to the partial adherence to the suggestions and criticism given. An excellent article is that of Ken Bain which is summarized in his book "What the Best College Teachers Do." Bain's assertion that comments and ratings by students are useful providing valid and reliable information is based on an extensive literature. But the question has to be re-address to how these end of course evaluations are structured and to the care on design and intentionality that the questions in the questionnaire are addressing. The most important thing according to James Lang (On Course p 277) is to ask the student questions that will help understand their learning advances not about any personal characteristics of the individuals involved, being the student or the teacher.
In this respect it looks like the end of course evaluation forms have to be adapted for individual courses and have to be reviewed periodically to accommodate to new forms of instruction and instruction technologies.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How long does it take?

4 years! This is how long does it take to go through college to get a Bachelor's degree. It doesn't matter if the degree is in the social sciences, humanities, arts, business, or hard sciences and mathematics. The time it takes is independent of the subject of study, the time is (was) established based on the need for the individual to mature from the late teens to the early twenties. It was designed as a post-secondary step in order to get a level of understanding and maturity that allowed the graduate to participate in society as a creative member based on his "liberal arts education." It was about liberating the individual to perform outside of the "being employed" scheme and allowed the individual to pursue a "professional" career through the skill s/he had developed during those four years. That could be "arithmetic" to do accounting, or writing in the varied disciplines of our society. As the amount of knowledge started to accumulate many colleges and universities started to use those four years in a different way. Giving more time to the area of specialization the so called "major" and less time was devoted to the general education core studies, all because there was a time restrain of four years to obtain the degree.
Time has come to re-examine this practice and time has come to re-evaluate the purpose of a baccalaureate degree.
As far as one can define the general purpose of education one should say that the purpose is to prepare citizens that are active constituents and builders of our society. Participants in the self preservation of the human species and means through which our society improves. Of course one is taking for granted that if the individual is performing task necessary for humanity the utilitarian nature of these services will guarantee that his/her own personal survival will be protected and in some cases rewarded with a very comfortable standard of living. This utilitarian nature has made some "majors" more attractive than others and in some cases will determine the starting salary or income as the new graduate joins the career market.
The idea that education will improve the way in which one is useful to society and therefore will be more employable is what is driving many adults to go back to school and this new market is feeding the desire for many institutions and business to get in the adult education endeavor, be it for profit or not.
So as these new programs are being established for these new kind of students the "4 year paradigm" is not longer valid or useful and shorter models have been developed. The question one has to address here is if this new model with less time of study will be good enough for all the disciplines currently being addressed in colleges and universities.
The other question one might address is if these new programs that are working for adults returning to classrooms after some years out of high school is adaptable to students  with much less experience who have just finished secondary education. Could it be that with new technologies and strategies one could have some students getting a bachelor's degree in three or less years for some disciplines while for some others will take more than the standard four years?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Genius Mind at Work

Hope you enjoy looking at this video clip of Richard Feynman explaining the scientific method.