Friday, October 29, 2010

Enforcing Uniformity

Our university bureaucrats keep looking for ways to justify their existence and make the lives of the teaching faculty more difficult. Their most recent exercise in futility is an attempt to create a university-wide form for student evaluations. The simple idea that all departments are different and have some very specific characteristics is unaccessible to these people. Now they have sent out a questionnaire that spells out different kinds of question that will be placed on the uniform evaluation tool. It is needless to say that this attempt to enforce uniformity will be a complete and utter failure.

To give just one example, the uniform questionnaire will ask students to evaluate how "clear and understandable" the instructor's presentations were. The geniuses who came up with this idiotic question obviously don't realize that some professors (like me and my colleagues) teach their courses in foreign languages. I teach in Spanish. I almost never use English in class, not even in Spanish 101 and 102. Students have to make a significant effort to understand what I'm saying. Which is kind of the point of the entire course. Evidently, when asked how clear and understandable my teaching was compared to other profs, the students will rate me a lot lower. How much sense does it make to penalize me for doing my job right, which of necessity means speaking in a language students find hard to understand?

Another idiotic question on the evaluation form asks students to evaluate how "organized" the class was and how "prepared" the teacher was. Language classes do not take place in a lecture format. A language class is most effective precisely when it looks disorganized. Students need to move around, speak all at the same time, interrupt each other, etc. An "organized" language class where everybody sits quietly in their seat and listens to the lecture while taking copious notes is a travesty. The kind of preparation that goes into planning a language class is not something that a person who has no understanding of the methodology of language teaching can possibly understand or evaluate.

Every time the stupid bureaucrats who don't know their ass from their elbow and a language class from a lecture in physics start messing with the teaching process, both the students and the teachers suffer. I understand that these ignoramuses need to justify their high salaries but can't they just sit quietly in their offices, drink tea, gossip, and leave us the hell alone to do our jobs???

1 comment:

Vinod Khare said...

My university back in India has a 'voluntary' participatory administration. This means that most administrative posts (at least all the top ones) were held by profs. Even then, we had many of these kinds of stupid rules.

I guess the problem isn't limited to bureaucrats. People in general refuse to see outside of their limited range of experiences.