From The Chronicle :
The chancellor of the Texas A&M University system wants to give faculty members bonuses of up to $10,000, based on student evaluations, but some professors are raising concerns about the plan, saying it could become a popularity contest, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported.Instructors, you've won a ticket to College Station to compete on Academic Idol, except that the voting will be without the benefit of comments by Simon Cowell and company.
Faculty members can decide whether to participate in the pilot program, which is being offered at the system’s flagship, in College Station, and at its Kingsville and Prairie View campuses. Though details are preliminary, officials said, the goal is to offer awards starting at $2,500 to the top 15 percent of participating instructors.
What might this change?
1. Teaching styles. There's no question that this could affect people's teaching styles, but would it do so for the better? Philip J. Tramdack, one of the commenters at the Chronicle, says that if he had to teach again (he's a librarian), he'd pull out his popular "lounge act" style of teaching instead of the "casino act" in which he actually asked students questions. Sometimes you can teach students difficult concepts AND entertain them, but not always.
2. Syllabus. Hmmm, what to choose--800 pages of Bleak House or the graphics novel version of Bleak House? Or Bleak House in text-message format?
And what about writing assignments? Writing is hard, and no one likes to hear anything but "superb job! brilliant!" when turning something in. We all, professors included, have to learn to take criticism about our writing, however, and it's only natural to have a hard time separating the messenger from the message. With a fortune like $2500-10,000 hanging over your head, would you be more likely or less likely to wield the red pen as usual, even it if means student displeasure?
3. Academic rigor. Another commenter mentions that the evaluations ask about things like "this course challenged me" and so on--in other words, students are asked to judge the academic rigor of the course.
Here's the problem with those kinds of questions: students all want to take challenging courses as long as they can get an A in them. There's no glory to getting an A in an easy course. On the other hand, if the student doesn't get a good grade, it's the instructor's fault for making the course, as students sometimes put it, "to hard" with "to much writting."
It would be nice to reward good teaching, but making evaluations the sole criterion is daft. To quote our soon-to-be-ex-president, the question that's not being asked is "Is our children learning?"