Last week I attended a presentation on some research done by one of our instructors, Dr. Janet Reagan, on informal student course evaluations, specifically focusing on the website RateMyProfessors . Those working within the BC college system may find the research particularly interesting as the data she used from RMP was pulled from 3 anonymous BC college’s, so it is very relevant for those of us working in this sector.
One of our College’s research analysts was in attendance – someone charged with doing our in house course survey, and remarked that there was a great deal of similarity and consistency with the informal information student’s posted on RMP and the results of Dr. Reagan’s study. I am not sure what the perception of sites like RMP is with our faculty, but I think it is easy to disregard the validity of the comments made on public spaces like this as places where students vent. Dr. Reagan’s research shows that these comments are valid and, surprising to some, equally weighted between positive and negative. Very useful and relevant phenomenological information can be found on sites like RMP and there is a great deal of congruency between what students perceive is effective teaching practice and what the research literature in this area suggests.
As part of the research, Dr. Regan has developed the ACCEPT Model of Student Discernment of Effective Teaching Characteristics which can be used as criteria to evaluate student perceptions of good teaching practice.
- Articulate: Teachers provide consistent, clear and distinctly accurate instruction to facilitate and direct the teaching and learning process.
- Competent: Teachers are qualified to instruct in adult education settings and exhibit skills expected of the teaching profession. They are organized and prepared for content delivery in an interactive style, and understand strategies to fairly and effectively assess learning.
- Content-Experts: Teachers are current, informative, reality-based content experts with substantive experience in their topic areas that may include their academic research background, or their career background, or their trades or industry background.
- Empowering: Teachers empower students in their learning to build self-confidence and assertiveness. Teachers challenge, motivate and encourage adult learners to think independently and critically.
- Perceptive: Teachers display a high level of authenticity and credibility including insight, intuition, and humour. Perceptive teachers care about the success of their students and are approachable.
- Trustworthy: Teachers are aware of their professional, ethical and moral obligations in relation to the trust relationship of teaching. Teachers are respectful in thought and reliable in action and have earned the students? confidence.
Dr. Reagan goes on to make 6 recommendations based on the results of the study.
- Explore the use of informal online student evaluation of effective teaching characteristics, to promote credible and authentic teaching practice, aligned with self-regulated learning strategies that are both beneficial and desirable to adult learners.
- Promote voluntary faculty development opportunities that demonstrates how humour and novelty may be used to enhance learning, as many anecdotal student comments relate to the positive effect on humour and novelty in the learning environment or, conversely, the negative effect when humour and novelty are absent.
- Address power relations in the classroom that interfere with learning, as voiced through informal student evaluation of teaching effectiveness, and intervene when the quality of teaching is unacceptable to students and the teaching professions.
- Build on the framework of the ACCPET model of Student Discernment of Effective Teaching Characteristics to develop informal adjunct to the institutional rating system. The interpretive analysis of this study revealed that students informal anecdotal comments align with empirical research on effective teaching characteristics and principles of adult learning.
- Build on the framework of the ACCPET model of Student Discernment of Effective Teaching Characteristics to promote and integrate effective teaching characteristics. Also, with faculty agreement, conduct regular classroom research and improve teaching practice with ongoing in-service training, student and peer feedback
- Improve the method of retrieving student evaluation of effective teaching characteristics by accessing informal and less traditional student communication, including data accessed from anonymous online faculty rating systems, while also acknowledging that students’ informal comments reflect credible commentary; even though possible abuses could limit validity in specific instances.
Dr. Reagan’s research was on RMP, but I suspect that similar results could be found monitoring any open social network and I believe this is a great opportunity for educators. Over the past year or so I have been monitoring keywords related to our institution on Twitter and it is always interesting when I see a student comment that I know is directly related to a class they are taking, or some kind of experience they are having with our institution. To me, the realtime web offers great potential for educators to provide immediate and timely feedback and intervention based on what our students are saying about the experiences they are having with our institution as they are having them. Many large companies are doing this kind of social media space monitoring with very positive results. Maybe it is time educators took a serious look at monitoring social networking sites as a regular part of their formative assessment strategy.
The full dissertation is available at DSpace at the University of Victoria.