Teaching in the Department of Social Sciences
An old saw states that a college professor is someone who talks in other people's sleep. If we are to avoid that fate, we must evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching and strive continuously to improve it.
Others are evaluating our capabilities. From the first day of class, students question whether their instructors care about them personally, whether they are knowledgeable about their subject, and whether their courses are relevant to them and their future careers. Fellow instructors are assessing academic preparation. Senior professors wonder if instructors can carry their assigned teaching load and uphold the standards of the Department not only in the classroom, but also in counseling, support of extracurricular activities, and outside research.
Such an array of evaluators does nothing to ease the self-doubt that seems endemic to teaching. Few new faculty members have ever entered a classroom without butterflies. For that matter, even the most experienced professors often find themselves nervous and insecure about facing a class of college students.
One source of that insecurity is the recognition that teaching is a mysterious art, and success is difficult to measure. We typically lack objective measures of student learning, and even when we have some such indicators it is never clear how the instructor has or has not contributed to the learning process. Thus, we are forced back on indirect measurement techniques. This chapter addresses the problems in this evaluation process and suggests approaches that some instructors have found useful. We begin with a discussion of the art of teaching and an assessment of some of the attributes of effective teachers. We will then consider three categories for evaluating teacher effectiveness, each of which contains a number of specific techniques. Finally, the evaluative categories will be matched with teacher attributes and several cautionary rules proposed for evaluating our teaching .
Another old saw suggests that to instruct is to appear to have known all your life what you read last night, committed to paper this morning, and taught this afternoon. Jascha Heifetz is less flippant. He has observed that teaching is "to cultivate talent until it ripens for the public to reap its bounty."
Whether teaching is appearance or cultivation, it is most certainly an art. And it is a complex art. No single style or method works for everyone. Rather, each of us must seek the approach that both meets student needs and yet best suits our character, style, and world view.
Though more art than science, college teaching is a social system. It is affected by forces outside the classroom such as the nature and aspirations of students, the backgrounds and dispositions of instructors, college norms and rules, each discipline's expectations about appropriate methods and standards, and by the materials available for any particular course. These exogenous factors all influence the inputs of course material and instructor preparation. As to outputs, Kenneth Boulding notes that the impact of a teacher is "not merely the immediate product of the class that he is teaching but consists of what happens to his students, to himself, and to the social systems in which they participate for the rest of their lives as a result of their experiences in class."
As a social system, teaching effectiveness can be evaluated. Most authorities on faculty assessment agree that the evaluative measures are crude at best and that inferences should be carefully drawn from the results of several measures. The three measures to be considered in this chapter are student evaluations, colleague reviews, and personal assessments. Before we discuss those measures, two questions need to be asked: Does good teaching matter? If so, what are the characteristics of successful teachers?
Both empirical and impressionistic studies conclude that teachers are influential. As Robert Wilson and Jerry Gaff observe in their careful study of college professors and their students, "faculty members do make a difference in the lives of students." Those students who reported the most change in their lives and demonstrated the greatest intellectual development had the most interaction with faculty members, both in and out of the classroom.
More impressionistic data has been gathered by Joseph Epstein, who has collected profiles of memorable teachers. These profiles suggest that specific teachers are influential by showing concern for their students while demanding high standards and precision.
Jonathan Kozol on Archibald MacLeish: "...because of my teacher's passion to empower those of us who trusted him --I gave up any dreams of medical school and chose instead to be a writer."
Philip Roth on Mildred Martin: "Nothing imperfect flew by her unnoted. She was the sternest, the most relentless, the best."
Robert Coles on Perry Miller: "No one has influenced my adult working life more than Perry Miller...Miller offered a few of us lucky students an impressive, steadying manner of dealing with the hazards of the so-called intellectual life."
Denton Cooley on Hanson Parlin: "But my acquaintance with Dr. Parlin changed my entire perspective about learning, and showed me the importance of having diversified interests...I admired Dr. Parlin, but it was only later that I could appreciate his influence on me. And now he is one of the few college professors I can even recall."
Sarah Weddington on Caroline Blair: "...the skills she taught me have been the basis for much of my professional success."
There is also considerable agreement on the attributes of effective teachers. These attributes have been derived from studies by psychologists, sociologists, professors of education, and directors of teaching evaluation institutes.
Todd Marques, David Lane, and Peter Dorfman modeled the judgment policies of faculty members and students at Rice University using multiple regression techniques to determine what dimensions of teaching were considered most important. They concluded that four cues reflecting instructor performance were best related to teaching effectiveness and would provide a valid system of instructional evaluation. Those cues, noted in order of faculty and student support, were: amount of information imparted in the course, arousal of student interest, teaching style, and the instructor's general knowledge of the field.
Wilson and Gaff had students rate influential faculty members on ten categories of teaching effectiveness. Two-thirds or more of the l,127 college seniors in the study described the following statements as very or quite descriptive: "He or she was available and open to any discussion (81%), stimulated me intellectually (81%), helped me feel confident of my own abilities (72%), demanded high quality work from me (69%), and interested me in his/her field (66%)." Most students found five other statements not as descriptive of influential faculty members. "He or she encouraged me to inspect my values (43% saying very or quite descriptive), advised me about career plans (38%), made me aware of social issues (34%), counseled me about a personal problem (19%), and helped me get a job or scholarship (18%)." In studying those faculty members who were considered effective by both students and colleagues, the authors found a greater commitment to undergraduate teaching and a lower positive orientation toward research. Such faculty members had worked hard to make their classroom presentations interesting through use of stories, analogies and personal examples to make their point. Another study relating personality traits to teaching effectiveness was done by Lita Linzer Schwartz. Schwartz reports the following:
Rapport with students based on mutual respect, availability, and approachability are ranked very high on most lists of desirable teaching qualities. The effective teacher is seen as one, who exemplifies enthusiasm for his work, exhibits physical and mental energy, displays self-confidence without arrogance, and dresses appropriately for his role. In addition, personal generosity --giving of self --is seen as an essential of good teaching.
These studies on preferred traits display considerable overlap. In fact three attributes emerge clearly: First, student arousal in the form of intellectual stimulation, interesting the student in the field, vigor or enthusiasm; second, sensitivity to students manifested by teaching style, availability, rapport –specifically mutual respect and approachability, and emotional stability; and finally, knowledge of the field through such traits as a demand for quality work, self confidence, and original thinking.
As we have discovered at West Point, studying the attributes of great military captains is not the ideal method for training leaders. Yet, in the absence of more precise literature on the social psychology of effective teaching --a form of leadership, after all-- the attribute method will have to do for now.
Faculty members can improve their teaching skills by drawing on these characteristics. We all may not be destined to become memorable teachers, but we certainly owe it to our students to try. Another advantage to the attribute method is that it can be used in student, colleague, and personal assessments. Since these attributes and their associated traits have been linked with effective teaching elsewhere, we should test ourselves and each other to see whether they fit our circumstances and if so, how we as faculty members measure up. This process is a threatening one perhaps, but worthwhile for the students and our own personal growth. Clearly, teaching should be a process of learning for both the student and the instructor.
The introduction of student evaluations in college classrooms has created considerable furor. Student unrest in the late 1965, part of what Samuel Huntington has called a "creedal passion period," generated demands that courses and teachers be more "relevant" and that faculty members be more attentive to student needs. In the 19705, this movement combined with the efforts of college and university administrators, who were faced with declining state and private contributions as a result of weak economic conditions, to focus more attention on teaching effectiveness.
Over the last 15 years, student evaluations --whether prepared by students, teaching departments, or college administrators --have become widely used, but they are not widely accepted as indicators of teacher effectiveness. Surveys of college teaching departments indicate that student evaluations are the second or third preferred source of information for evaluating teacher performance (behind the chairman's assessment and colleague opinions), though not a major factor in evaluating faculty for promotion or salary increases. Students themselves approve of such evaluations. Seventy-two percent of responding college freshmen in a survey felt they should have a role in faculty evaluation.
Faculty members are divided on the subject. Some feel that such evaluations are useful indicators, while others find them threatening or inappropriate. Those who object raise a number of concerns. They argue that students lack the experience and maturity to make meaningful assessments of their instructors, that ratings are popularity contests to be won by warm and humorous instructors, and that grades awarded to students will affect their ratings. Others argue that extraneous variables such as class size, time of day for the course, student composition (whether a student was a major in the field or required to take the course), and instructor rank will prejudice evaluations. Lawrence Dennis nicely sums up these concerns.
At all levels of instruction we have evidence that students believe their better teachers to possess certain character traits. Most of these might apply equally well to a doctor as to a teacher...AII [the attributes discussed earlier] are, we might agree, most praiseworthy traits, but none has anything to do with scholarship. In addition, there is very little evidence that these traits, deemed important by students, in fact make for good teaching.
There are also considerable differences of opinion on the implicit bias of formal student evaluations. Gordon Greenwood and Howard Ramagli have concluded that student ratings tend to be less generous than other forms of evaluation in the appraisal of college teachers. John Centra, on the other hand, has found a positive bias in these ratings.
Another concern about student evaluations is that they do not measure the delayed impact that many observers feel to be implicit in teaching. One distinguished scholar and a teacher of considerable experience has observed that students don't really know the effect of a given teacher at the end of a course. "The influence that passes from a teacher to a student is probably best recollected and understood only in tranquility --that is to say, only in years to come." Yet some preliminary studies that have compared student and alumni ratings of teachers have found that those rated poorly by the current student body are also rated poorly by their predecessors.
Perhaps teaching is like an artillery barrage in which immediate impact and variable time fuses are used. For some students, a given teacher's influence may be felt immediately. Others respond to more delayed fuses, with the teacher's impact tending to explode well after the end of the course. This variety of response is not surprising given the difference in student (and faculty) maturity, experience, and perspective.
There are four techniques that can be used to measure student reactions to faculty teaching. All four are used or encouraged by the Department of Social Sciences. A formal student evaluation form has been prepared by the Military Academy and is administered each semester through anonymous computerized feedback system. Instructor surveys can be used as well. Special incidents, or unsolicited student feedback, are also more plentiful than many instructors realize. Finally, evaluations of student development during the term also can contribute to our understanding of student reactions to teaching.
Given the variance of views on these evaluations, the Military Academy uses this technique only as an indicator of the overall quality of our teaching and as a feedback device to help individual instructors improve their teaching. The questions are standardized so that the Department can assess not only the range of responses each year, but also the trend of student reactions to our teaching over the years.
The evaluation uses a computer program designed by the Military Academy. The standardized questions inquire about the three attributes of student arousal, teacher sensitivity, and preparation. Cadet responses are anonymous and require no more than 15 minutes. The instructor receives the results on an individual sheet that shows the mean response to the questions asked. The individual instructor's evaluation is for personal use; individual results are not given to the senior faculty. Senior faculty see the results only in aggregated form for different groups of instructors --e.g., different core courses and elective groupings.
Many Department instructors administer their own end of term evaluations to assess student reactions to course content and teacher effectiveness. These surveys include specific questions about intellectual stimulation, enthusiasm, teaching style, student-teacher rapport, and original thinking. Such questionnaires are usually anonymous and questions can be either multiple choices or may call for a short written answer from the student. A sample of one form used by Department instructors is contained at Table 2.
Unsolicited student feedback is not routine but much more frequent than the literature on teaching effectiveness seems to indicate. Such feedback can be either praise or complaints from students directly or reported through other faculty members. It can be manifested by comments on teaching style, course content, or instructional methods such as visiting lecturers or movies.
Perhaps the best illustration of such incidents is contained in an end-of-course report prepared by a Department assistant professor. He taught the advanced section of a Department core course composed primarily of Second Class cadets. This faculty member noted that at the end of the term, 15 of his 65 students sought him out to, express their enthusiasm for his efforts. A number commented that the course was the best one they had ever taken. This professor also observed that he had been given "feedback from cadets through other instructors. I have received a number of very positive comments about [my course] in this fashion; two such comments came from instructors in the Mechanics Department."
Faculty members must, of course, be judicious about such unsolicited feedback. Teachers cannot be certain that student feedback represents the majority view of students. Yet such incidents are a component in assessing student evaluation of our teaching. We should recognize too that as we would want such feedback reported to us, we also have the responsibility to pass it on to fellow instructors.
A final technique for measuring student evaluation of instructor effectiveness is to assess student achievement through the term and development thereafter. Like the techniques discussed above, the alternatives here are a mix of the methodologically refined and the impressionistic.
In core and elective courses, diagnostic examinations can be used at the beginning and end of the course to evaluate cadet learning over the term. These examinations should be similar in scope and difficulty. To assure grading consistency in core courses where there are more than one instructor, multiple choice examinations may be used or team grading may be employed on essay and short answer questions, with each instructor grading all student answers to specific questions.
This method has several advantages. First, it permits instructors and course directors to see student development through the term and thereby assess course structure and content and teacher effectiveness. It also assists students by suggesting at the outset the extent of their knowledge and by reassuring them –one hopes --at the end of the term about the extent of their development. Finally, course directors can identify those students early in the term who have considerable preparation in the field and ensure they are challenged by providing them with more demanding material.
This approach also has its problems. Designing appropriate measures of student learning is difficult. The danger is that emphasis will be placed on the accumulation of information, which lends itself to more "objective" evaluation, than on the more important factors of analytical and conceptual development. Moreover, such evaluations emphasize short-term rather than long-term teacher impact.
A more impressionistic method of evaluating student achievement is to watch for growth in "concerned students". These students are the achievers who want to do well and who by their involvement in class discussions and contact with the instructor out of class make their concern clear. One course director observed the following, " [A] Third Class cadet came to see me early in term clearly concerned about her progress; soon thereafter she enlisted in the [Academy's] Reading Improvement Program and began to apply herself more completely in the course. By the end of the term she had moved from a B- to an A-."
Finally, student development beyond the term is a useful impressionistic tool for assessing teacher impact. An instructor's impact is indirectly measured by future cadet course selections, performance in related classes, or selection of extracurricular activities or summer activities related to the instructor's field. Where a number of students have shown substantial development in subsequent terms or have been motivated to pursue related courses or activities, the teacher has a positive indicator of teaching effectiveness. "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
Colleagues can teach us more than we realize. Unlike student evaluations of our teaching, however, no single technique can really claim to be methodologically rigorous. Associates can give us cues, reactions, impressions, and judgments -- they cannot realistically be expected to involve themselves sufficiently in the design and implementation of a peer evaluation system such that we can expect hard and fast conclusions about our effectiveness. Both peers and senior professors can be useful in evaluating teaching. Peers have the best sense of what material needs to be covered in core courses and how students are likely to respond. Senior professors have a better grasp of alternative teaching styles and which styles are most likely to be effective with students.
Colleagues should be encouraged to visit our classes and assess teaching effectiveness. They are excellent judges of the attributes of student arousal, sensitivity to students, and knowledge of the material. Furthermore, colleagues can assess student reactions to our teaching style, a judgment that is usually difficult for the instructor to reach as he or she struggles to present the material in a creative way.
In his closing address to an annual meeting of the American Council on Education, U.S. Commissioner of Education Harold Howe II, himself an innovative teacher and educator, observed: "It strikes me that the fundamental problem with college teaching is that there is too much of it, and not nearly enough conversation. There is too much information and not enough inquiry; too many facts, and not enough explanation of their meaning." A final measure to assure more conversation, inquiry, and explanation is a personal assessment of teaching effectiveness. Two techniques for such assessments are personal inventories and appraisals of student response.
Both techniques may well require a level of self-criticism that tests teacher objectivity and self-image. Furthermore, teaching evaluators have found that self-ratings correlate poorly with student ratings. Yet personal assessment techniques are clearly useful in interpreting student evaluations and colleague reviews of teaching. They also can help to identify throughout each course and from semester to semester more obvious oversights in teaching techniques.
A number of methods are available to inventory our teaching style. Videotape can be used as a means "to see ourselves as others see us." Two researchers on these techniques have observed that "listening to one's voice is like being given a little shake, but self-viewing is like a teeth-rattling blow." Whether shaken or beaten, a great deal can be learned about mannerisms, voice, and style of presentation from such tapes, especially if they are viewed with others who can offer a more dispassionate critique. The Department of Social Sciences has routinely used videotape during its New Instructor Orientation program. The format has been for new instructors to give a 10-15 minute presentation that is videotaped. More experienced instructors then critique the session, and finally the videotape is played back for the group of new instructors and more experienced ones. The reaction of most instructors is that they are more accomplished than they expected, but they also identify several flaws that serve as a focus for future attention.
Fuller and Manning have suggested that videotape and audio tape be combined to improve teaching effectiveness. They note that videotape is arousing and self-involving in that it promotes an interest in our teaching performance. Audio tape may then be used for assessing verbal interaction with students and for longer term evaluation of teaching style. Audio tape can more easily be used in the classroom, although even it may be somewhat disruptive. Students, however, tend to be flexible and generally disposed to teachers who are working to improve themselves.
Colleague observation is also useful in inventorying teaching. Just as colleagues are needed to visit our classrooms, so too should we visit theirs to make comparisons. Such visits are particularly useful in required courses which cover the same material. In fact, core courses have used a program of class visitation for new instructors. During the semester, instructors are asked to teach their first two sections on one day. Then the following day a substitute is found and they visit four different classrooms, spending 30 minutes in each. Thus acquainted with the material, each instructor can review another style of presentation, interaction with students, and delivery.
Another method involves personal ratings. A number of self-evaluation forms have been developed. None of them surpasses a format suggested by Boulding. Drawing on the Quaker method of "queries," which are a set of loaded questions designed primarily for self- examination and revised to fit the changing consensus in the group, he poses a set of questions. These questions themselves may be challenged, as they are meant for ethical analysis rather than as teaching dogma.
Do I abuse my position of superior to the student by treating him as a moral orsocial inferior?
Am I careful to avoid using my authority to force factual acceptance of propositions which may be only opinion or hypotheses? Do I tolerate honest disagreement? Would I be pleased if I were ever proved to be wrong by a student?
Do I express my overt or covert hostility to my students in my teaching? Am I irritated by student failure, or am I quick to detect and encourage growth in knowledge and understanding, however slow or imperfect?
Am I myself interested in the subject matter that I am teaching? Do I enjoy learning more about it, and do I carry over to the student my own enthusiasm for the subject?
Do I convey to my students both the setting and the significance of my subject matter, so that it appears neither isolated nor irrelevant?
Do I convey to the student the necessity for intellectual discipline and a sense of hard work on difficult intellectual tasks if the political problems of our society are to be solved?
Do I convey to the student the importance of technical skill, and at the same time, leave him problem-oriented rather than technique- oriented, the master and not the servant of the skills which he has acquired?
Is my relation to other teachers one of cooperation in a great common task of transmitting and extending the knowledge structure of society, or am I jealous and suspicious of others? Am I conscious of my citizenship in the academic community? Do I insist on doing only those things that will lead to my personal advancement?
Do I have a proper sense of my own dignity as a teacher and researcher, and do I have an equivalent sense of the dignity of all those with whom I come in contact?
Extending Boulding's queries a bit further, we can ask an additional set of questions. Unlike Boulding's however, these are loaded such that "yes" or "usually" indicates that instructors are probably teaching well. These questions are meant to emphasize student contact, flexibility, and experimental spirit and are related to the three attributes of student arousal, sensitivity, and knowledge.
If, as Joseph Voubert has said, teaching is "to learn twice," am I learning while I am teaching?
Do I avoid just dusting off old class notes and instead seek out new material to discuss in class? Do I review new textbooks and teaching materials to update my courses?
Can I point to some recent class in which I attempted a new teaching technique, and I felt that it failed? Did I learn from that failure and go on to experiment with other techniques which better fit the personality of each class?
Do I use a range of questioning techniques which include cognitive memory questions (require recall of information), convergent questions (require a combination of recalled information and analysis), divergent questions (open-ended questions which suggest a new interpretation of events or institutions and provoke speculation, prediction, or inference), and evaluative questions (require students to make choices or judgments and support them analytically).
Do I arrange to meet with students outside of class either in my office, during extracurricular activities, or in my home? Do I know my students names and something about the background or activities of each one?
Do I use a variety of instructional aids such as the blackboard, PowerPoint slides, films and guest speakers to keep students alert, interested, and refreshed with outside points of view?
The second technique for personal assessment is watching for cues from students and judging their meaning. Just as what Erving Goffman calls "presentation of self" influences students to learn, so too do student reactions tell faculty members something about their effectiveness.
The real trick of course is not identifying the cues, a number of which are presented below, but rather interpreting their meaning. As we all need to recall, college days are full of experiences, only one of which is studying a given course. This situation is particularly true at West Point, where young men and women also are being prepared for a lifetime career in the Regular Army. Consequently, what students are saying by their actions, questions and body language is not always directed to teachers or to their courses. Therefore, student reactions must be observed over a period of several semesters. Where there is a pattern, instructors can adjust their style or techniques to better suit students. For instance, one instructor in the Department began his teaching career calling all students in the correct manner of "Mr. Jones" or "Miss Smith." Over a period of several terms he sensed a lack of rapport with his students and decided to concentrate on learning the first names of all 60 of them. On the first day of class he would shake hands with all students calling each by his or her first name from memory. At the end of the term he again went around the room bidding farewell to each student and indicating how much he had enjoyed the class. This format seemed to improve his sense of rapport with the students, and they generally seemed more positive toward him.
The list of cues noted below is not by any means all inclusive, but rather suggestive of positive student response to effective teaching. The cues are purely impressionistic, based on personal observations of successful faculty members in the Department.
Are students generally alert and responsive in class? Do they willingly enter class discussions? When you question them, are there more hands than you can handle?
Do students seek you out after class and in your office to discuss some facet of the lesson or class discussion, some matter in your field or your recommendations for follow-on courses in your field or related ones?
Do students willingly sign up for your electives or ask you to work with them on independent study projects?
Have your former students chosen to concentrate or major in your field or have they become involved in department-sponsored extracurricular activities?
Some may argue that positive answers to these questions simply indicate that a faculty member is "popular" with students and tell nothing about his or her prowess as a teacher. Yet the clear thrust of all the literature on effective teachers is that they arouse students and are sensitive to student needs. Teachers may not need to be "popular" --whatever that really means --but to be effective, they have to be trusted and respected. Just as V. O. Key observed that voters are not easily duped, so too are students not easily misled by the facile, gregarious yet shallow and self-serving teacher.
In conclusion, this chapter has argued that effective teaching is an art, but not so esoteric an art that it cannot be learned and its effectiveness assessed. Teaching is a social system involving numerous environmental factors: inputs in the form of demands and supports from students, colleagues, and administrators; technological advances in the form of films, videotapes, and data shows; teaching skills, and finally outputs in the form of student and faculty learning. Assessing the effectiveness of such a complex array of factors demands a range of methods, most of which provide incomplete and impressionistic evidence. When collected from a variety of sources and analyzed dispassionately, however, we believe that such evidence can provide teachers a reasonably accurate sense of how they are doing.
That effective teachers can transform lives seems beyond question. After 2000 years Socrates continues to instruct and inspire us all. In a more immediate sense, the profiles of effective teachers collected by Joseph Epstein testify to the profound impact they can have.
Recent studies indicate that effective teachers have certain identifiable attributes. They arouse students by their enthusiasm for their subject matter, by their physical and intellectual vigor, and their experimental spirit. Such teachers are sensitive, warm, and empathetic with students --as one researcher commented, "A good teacher is a good person." Finally, effective teachers are experts in their field who are original thinkers and who demand high quality work from their students.
Three categories are available for judging faculty effectiveness, each of which seems best suited to fit one of the three teaching attributes. Student evaluations include formal student questionnaires prepared by the Military Academy, informal instructor surveys, special incidents and review of student development. Student evaluations seem best suited to testing teacher sensitivity. Colleague reviews of classroom style, syllabi, and examinations measure instructor knowledge. Finally, individual teacher assessments, which include both personal inventories and appraisals of student response, are most useful in examining student arousal.
Faculty members must not, of course, take all of this so seriously that it discourages them as teachers. By arguing that teachers must struggle to improve effectiveness, we are not proposing that they permit themselves to be haunted or immobilized by their efforts. To put the argument in perspective, every instructor should remember four important rules about teaching. First, students themselves are often the problem. Day to day each one can be sluggish and worn down by competing demands from other courses, depressed by news from a sweetheart or from home, and discouraged by recent developments in their ongoing relationships with classmates, their tactical officers, or other teachers. Or they can be engaging and elated, buoyed up by praise or success in some endeavor. At one low moment, when you feel your teaching is not going well at all, remember this cadet observation made to a Department member: "It's not your fault. It's us, not you."
A second rule is that teachers are more effective than they generally think they are in their moments of despair and not as good as they believe themselves to be in times of exhilaration. The last two rules follow closely on the heels of the second. Third, students neither know how effective their teachers are day-to-day nor even at the end of the term. Finally, teachers never really know with certainty what differences they have made. For any teacher, touching even 15-20% of his or her students each term so that they respond positively on any of the techniques of teacher evaluations described above is remarkable, even unusual. As Samuel Johnson once observed:
Nobody can be taught faster than he can learn. Every man that has ever
undertaken to instruct others can tell what slow advances he has been able to
make, and how much patience it requires to recall vagrant inattention, to
stimulate sluggish indifference and to rectify absurd misapprehension.
At root, each individual instructor is the responsible agent for improved teaching. Deans, department heads and senior professors can design teaching review systems that call for student evaluations, colleague reviews, and personal assessments. Each of these methods can be deceived and disrupted. Over the long run students cannot be fooled, and given the levels of education and experience for most college faculty members, we are fools if we deceive ourselves. Regardless of all our inner resistance to changing techniques and objections to external review of our performance, we as teachers can change and improve.
Perhaps the essence of this chapter is best summed up by a wonderful dittyon teaching written in 1945 by David McCord and contained in his book What Cheer:
The decent docent doesn't doze;
He teaches standing on his toes.
His student doesn’t doze and does,
And that's what teaching is and was.