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Student Evaluations of Teaching II: Proactive, Active, and Reactive Strategies | TAPP 85

by Kevin Patton

Student Evaluations of Teaching II: Proactive, Active, and Reactive Strategies

TAPP Radio Episode 85

Episode

Episode | Quick Take

Host Kevin Patton continues the discussion about student evaluations of teaching (SETs) with a set of strategies to make them work better, or at least mitigate some of the potentially bad or ugly outcomes. There are things we can do proactively before a SET, actively during a SET, and reactively after a SET. Listen to hear them all!

  • 00:00 | Quotation
  • 00:57 | Student Evaluation of Teaching: Part II
  • 04:16 | Sponsored by AAA
  • 05:39 | Proactive Strategies
  • 12:49 | Sponsored by HAPI
  • 14:03 | Active Strategies
  • 29:52 | Sponsored by HAPS
  • 31:18 | Reactive Strategies
  • 46:15 | Cookies!
  • 48:00 | Staying Connected

survey

Episode | Listen Now

Episode | Show Notes

The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope. (Barack Obama)

 

Student Evaluation of Teaching II

3.5 minutes

A brief intro to this second of two discussions of student evaluation of teaching. It’s easier to follow this one if you’ve first listened to Student Evaluations of Teaching I: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly | TAPP 84.

 

cover for episode 85: student evaluations of teaching II, proactive, active, reactive strategies

 

Sponsored by AAA

1.5 minutes

A searchable transcript for this episode, as well as the captioned audiogram of this episode, are sponsored by the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) at anatomy.org.

Searchable transcript

Captioned audiogram 

Don’t forget—HAPS members get a deep discount on AAA membership!

AAA logo

 

Proactive Strategies for SETs

7 minutes

There’s a lot we can do well in advance of student evaluations of teaching being administered. For example, speaking up and signing up to facilitate change in our own institutions.

 

Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

1.5 minutes

The Master of Science in Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction—the MS-HAPI—is a graduate program for A&P teachers, especially for those who already have a graduate/professional degree. A combination of science courses (enough to qualify you to teach at the college level) and courses in contemporary instructional practice, this program helps you be your best in both on-campus and remote teaching. Kevin Patton is a faculty member in this program. Check it out!

nycc.edu/hapi

NYCC Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction

 

Active Strategies for SETs

16 minutes

There are strategies we can implement as SETs are being implemented, such as promoting greater participation by students and training students on how to evaluation courses and teachers effectively.

  • Dr. Amy Simolo (HAPI faculty my-ap.us/2XhAJFP) created a tool for use at NYCC that teaches students how to evaluate courses & teachers in a professional manner. Included are six key tips:
    • Be respectful.
    • Focus on observable behavior.
    • Be constructive.
    • Offer actionable solutions.
    • Stay on point.
    • Give constructive and specific praise.
  • Kevin’s briefer message to instruct students on evaluating courses & teachers:
    • First, take a moment to reflect on your hard work—that desirable difficulty—resulting in the progress you’ve made in refreshing all those forgotten concepts and filled in the gaps for those concepts you somehow missed learning along the way. Then, will you please take a moment now to fill out the super-brief, super-easy CourseEval survey?
    • Please remember to be professional, respectful, and constructive in your responses. If you do that, stay focused on just this course/instructor, note specific things that helped you, and offer actionable solutions that improve learning, then my bosses (and I) will be more likely to understand and value your opinion. And take actions that will help future students in this course.
  • End-of-Term Reviews Help Keep Your Course on Track | Episode 17
  • Mid-Semester Check-Ins Keep Your A&P Course on Track | Episode 38
  • Krebs Cycle Horror Story | Anatomy Terms | TAPP 79 (explains that outburst when Kevin mentions the Krebs Cycle)
    clipboard with checklist with smiley faces

 

Sponsored by HAPS

1.5 minutes

The Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) is a sponsor of this podcast.  You can help appreciate their support by clicking the link below and checking out the many resources and benefits found there. Watch for virtual town hall meetings and upcoming regional meetings!

Anatomy & Physiology Society

theAPprofessor.org/haps

HAPS logo

 

Reactive Strategies for SETs

15 minutes

Some things we ought to be doing after SETs are administered include doing our own surveys, debriefings, and/or reflections—and compiling, reflecting upon, and writing a statement analyzing them. This helps us in the moment, as well as if/when we’re challenged by our supervisor. And there are even things we can do to mitigate potential problems with those online professor-rating sites!

hand checking boxes with smiley face, neutral face, and sad face

 

Cookies!

2 minutes

To prove the point that SETs don’t necessarily measure what we are pretending that they measure, it’s been proven that supplying students with cookies produces higher scores on SETs. So if we are measuring how pampered students feel, then maybe SETs are indeed the answer!

  • Kevin’s Favorite Blueberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookie Recipe my-ap.us/386hSn6
  • Availability of cookies during an academic course session affects evaluation of teaching (research article from Medical Education) my-ap.us/34VVsTt

oatmeal cookies on a plate

Need help accessing resources locked behind a paywall?
Check out this advice from Episode 32 to get what you need!

Episode | Transcript

The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the audio player provided.

AAA logoThis searchable transcript is supported by the
American Association for Anatomy.
I'm a member—maybe you should be one, too!

Quotation

Kevin Patton:
Former university educator and President of the United States, Barack Obama once said, “The best way to not feel hopeless, is to get up and do something.” Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope. You will fill yourself with hope.

Aileen:
Welcome to The A&P Professor, a few minutes to focus on teaching human anatomy and physiology, with a veteran educator and teaching mentor, your host, Kevin Patton.

Kevin Patton:
In this episode, I discuss proactive, active and reactive strategies to deal with student evaluations of faculty.

Student Evaluation of Teaching: Part II

Kevin Patton:
I brought up some good, bad and ugly things about student evaluations of teaching, or SETs, in the previous episode, that is episode 84.

Kevin Patton:
Now, after putting that episode out there and later doing a bit more research to prepare for this episode, I found that well, whoops, that phrase, the good, the bad and the ugly, that I used in the title and section subtitles in the previous episodes, has been used in relation to student evaluations… I don’t know.

Kevin Patton:
Like a million times, maybe more than a million. I mean, it’s just everywhere. Not that I thought that it was clever or original, it just sort of popped into my head and I went with it.

Kevin Patton:
With looking at all these similar usages, I’m thinking that this is what a lot of experts have as their first thought, when thinking about student evaluations of teaching. What I was mainly talking about in the previous episode.

Kevin Patton:
What most of these experts were addressing with that phrase, is student evaluations that are provided by our institution or department, or some agent outside ourselves. I think this phenomenon tells us that there may be some good in doing such evaluations, but we need to acknowledge the bad and ugly as well.

Kevin Patton:
The longer I’m alive and kicking in this world of teaching and learning and the more research on SETs I read, the clearer it’s becoming to me that the good that we speak of, is mostly a hope rather than a reality…

Read More

Kevin Patton:
Even if the reality of it isn’t that bad, I think it’s clear that we probably shouldn’t just shake our fist at the proverbial establishment, and go on as if we have no say in the matter and no power to make things different.

Kevin Patton:
In this episode, essentially a part two to the previous episode, I’m going to run through some things that we can do to make things better. That are proactive, that are active and that are reactive.

Kevin Patton:
Many of these strategies fall into more than one of those three categories, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that yes, we can do something. I’ll go ahead and encourage us that we should to do something, probably lots of things. As with the first part of my discussion of SETs, I’m just scratching the surface here.

Kevin Patton:
There is a lot more to say, and a lot of ideas out there. Many of them are way better ideas than those I’ll be discussing, which is why it’s important to call in with your ideas and questions to the podcast hotline.

Kevin Patton:
I’ll be giving that number to you at the end of the episode, as I always do, along with some other important announcements.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton:
AAA, the American Association for Anatomy continues to evolve as a service-oriented organization, that sees the teaching of A&P as an essential part of its mission.

Kevin Patton:
You know, one reason they recently changed their name from American Association of Anatomists to American Association for Anatomy, is to make that mission clearer. A lot of folks, including me, often think of an anatomist as somebody whose research focuses on human structure.

Kevin Patton:
Well, that’s kind of true as far as it goes, but that view is very limited. I guess, I don’t always appreciate that my teaching of anatomy and the physiology that goes hand in hand with anatomy, both literally and metaphorically, makes me an anatomist, whether I do research or not.

Kevin Patton:
AAA, which funds the searchable transcript and captioned audiogram of this episode and every episode, has a lot to offer you and me as A&P teachers. Go check out AAA at their fresh new website at anatomy.org.

Proactive Strategies

Kevin Patton:
When I suggest that we be proactive regarding SETs or Student Evaluations of Teaching, one thing I mean by that, is being part of the process. That is, speaking up and signing up. If my institution has to have evaluations, because we’ve chosen to follow the crowd rather than lead it, then my golly.

Kevin Patton:
I’m going to do what I can to do, to make those evaluations work as well as they can. I’m going to sign up to be on any committee, looking at our evaluations. If I can’t get on the committee, then I’ll still show up for their meetings as an observer.

Kevin Patton:
Asking permission ahead of time to speak, if that’s allowed. Which usually is, because half the members of these committees don’t really prepare or study before these meetings, I’ve found out. Therefore, they don’t have much to say anyway. If there is not a committee, I’ll do what I can to get one for them.

Kevin Patton:
These aren’t empty words, I’ve done this. I’m also going to be talking to everyone I can in my chain of command, and the parallel chains in other departments and divisions, and to my fellow faculty members across disciplines.

Kevin Patton:
I’m going to be having chats with all those course designers, teaching center staff and other gurus, who have a strong influence on how such things play out at my institution. I’m going to make sure the items are good survey items, that they’re clear. They ask what is meant to be asked, and are not easily misinterpreted.

Kevin Patton:
I’ll do what I can to make sure that they’re not open to allowing biases of any kind to seep into the results. I’m going to advocate for items that are generic enough to apply to all courses.

Kevin Patton:
In other words, there’ll be no chance that a course will get low scores on an item, because well, it doesn’t quite fit a classical or maybe even an outdated teaching format. I might even advocate for going scoreless.

Kevin Patton:
I mean, really, I know we like quantitative data, but can students or really anybody for that matter, really quantify how clearly a professor explains concepts? In the last episode, we learned that there’s evidence that the numbers really don’t compute anyway.

Kevin Patton:
Yet by using them, we’re assigning a value to them, they just don’t have. Anyway, that classic example of how clearly a professor explained something, is not a useful question to ask.

Kevin Patton:
In a flipped course or a lab course, where students are making discoveries on their own or in small groups, and not in a lecture, that question doesn’t really apply. If the system is working correctly, students should be answering, does not apply, but that’s not always an option.

Kevin Patton:
Students might answer no, or definitely not. That could reflect badly on the instructor, when it shouldn’t. Possibly worse than that, it’s sort of implies an institutional endorsement of lecturing as a standard than a primary way of teaching, doesn’t it?

Kevin Patton:
Is that really the statement we want to make, even if we do lecture in our own course? Okay, I’m getting a bit off track here. Writing it in, to a list of things that I can do in a committee on student evaluations of teaching, I’ll just end with the idea that there are a lot of things to be done here.

Kevin Patton:
I’ve got to say them in the committee, and defend my statements and suggestions. I’ve got to do a lot of work, a lot more work than I wanted to on a committee, to bring evidence to the table. To talk with all the other members privately, outside the meeting time, to bring them around to the idea that SETs are broken.

Kevin Patton:
That’s where I’d end. Where I’d start, is to propose the idea that we should consider abandoning SETs altogether at the institutional level. If folks are open, it might work. If they’re not open, well, maybe at least they’ll see the need for deep reform of SETs.

Kevin Patton:
Something else that we can do proactively, regarding student evaluations of teaching, involves our students. Specifically, being intentional about educating students on how learning works. In past episodes, I’ve often spoken about the need to promote metacognition.

Kevin Patton:
Thinking about thinking, as it applies to student learning in our courses. I think the more that we can get students to self-analyze about how they’re learning, they’re going to be able to do a better job of evaluating our courses, and a better job of evaluating how we would have done at being their learning coaches.

Kevin Patton:
I mean really, how can a student properly evaluate a course and evaluate teaching, without knowing at least a little bit about how it truly works and having taken moments along the way, to reflect on how it’s working or not working for them?

Kevin Patton:
Although I think coaching students on how learning works has many benefits, only one of which is to help them be better evaluators of our teaching. It’s certainly not enough to solve all the many problems with most SETs, but every little bit helps.

Kevin Patton:
A strategy that goes hand in hand with educating students on how learning works, is a strategy that has come up many times in previous episodes. That is, transparency. When we make it a habit to explain to students why we have made the choices we’ve made, in course design, assignments, testing, our textbook and other resources.

Kevin Patton:
Even course policies and procedures. In doing so, give them the rationale from a perspective of how these choices help students learn most effectively, then that also gives students a better foundation from which to evaluate our teaching. I’ll have more strategies for dealing with student evaluations of teaching in just a moment.

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton:
You’ve heard me talk about the master of science, and human anatomy and physiology instruction, the HAPI degree a lot. I know, setting aside the fact that the HAPI program sponsors the free distribution this podcast, and I’ve agreed to mention it in every episode.

Kevin Patton:
Setting aside the fact that I’m a faculty member in HAPI and therefore, it’s on my mind a lot. I know so many colleagues who have benefited from it. I also mentioned it, because well, it’s something that I know that you or someone you know could really have a life changing experience in the HAPI program.

Kevin Patton:
It’s a great way to lock arms with your cohort, and go through all the concepts we teach in A&P, while at the same time learning some contemporary evidence-based strategies for teaching those concepts. Check out this online graduate program, at nycc.edu/hapi. Or click the link in the show notes or episode page.

Active Strategies

Kevin Patton:
In the previous episode, I had mentioned that one of the issues with SETs, Student Evaluations of Teaching, is that often the numbers of filled out evaluations is way too low to give us anything close to reliable results.

Kevin Patton:
I think this is probably getting worse, as we increasingly move to online evaluations. Which are becoming the norm, even in courses that meet face to face in a classroom or lab. What are some practical and reasonable strategies for increasing our numbers in those voluntary online, outside of class time evaluations?

Kevin Patton:
I’ve seen some professors give a small number of course points for filling out the evaluations. Sometimes, but not always, we can tell who has filled one out, even if their responses are anonymous. That makes it easy to award course points. Now, if you can’t tell who’s filled them out, don’t worry.

Kevin Patton:
I have another strategy that also works well. For those who can access, who has submitted their SET in your course, consider giving students a few points. Okay, calm down. Let me explain. Yes, I know the course points are to be earned by learning and not given away like play money in a game.

Kevin Patton:
Let’s think that through a little bit. First, do the course points in our course really reflect a precise and accurate accounting of actual learning in each individual student? Or are they more of a ballpark approximation of learning? I suggest that the latter is truer picture than the former.

Kevin Patton:
If so, then a few points that you might feel are giveaway unearned points, aren’t really going to change things in the end, are they? I mean, the good students will still get a good course grade, and the underperforming students are still going to get a lower course grade.

Kevin Patton:
For example, one A&P course I’ve taught recently, I had 1,400 total points to be earned in the course. If I give five points on top of those 1,400 available points, for filling out the evaluation, is that going to skew my course grades in a way that I can’t live with?

Kevin Patton:
In a way that so badly reflects learning in my course, that I might as well turn in my professorship and walk away from teaching, no, it’s not. Not even close. Even so, I don’t think it’s fair to say that such points given for submitting SETs, are really unearned points anyway.

Kevin Patton:
They are earned by filling out the SET. One might think, “SETs aren’t learning activities, are they? I mean, an evaluation survey isn’t a quiz or a test, or a lab write up, is it? Where’s the anatomy content and the physiology content? Where does the Krebs cycle fit into all of this?”

Multiple Speakers:
Not the Krebs Cycle! Oh no! No!

Kevin Patton:
I think that SETs are indeed learning activities. There is a lot of evidence to show that reflecting on one’s learning, can help a student review and solidify their learning by looking at the big picture of they’ve learned, and how it all fits into the conceptual framework.

Kevin Patton:
I know. I know, I kind of doubted that too, until I started using various kinds of reflection activities in my courses and saw how well they work for learning. This is something I’ve talked about in previous episodes, and I’m going to bring up again later.

Kevin Patton:
My point for now is that, yes, points given for submitting SETs really are earned points for a learning activity. The thing is, it often takes only a few points, not enough points to make or break a student’s overall course grade, to motivate students to take a few minutes to fill out an evaluation and submit it.

Kevin Patton:
Students who don’t need the extra points, are often the first to take you up on that. Then the students who are pretty far behind, possibly because they recognize the need for more course points, but haven’t worked through the math real nice, it’s not really going to help them pass the course.

Kevin Patton:
Those students, yeah, we know they’re going to go for any points offered. Yes, there’ll be some students in that middle group, who are not going to be motivated by a few points. This isn’t a magic solution. It helps, but probably won’t get us to 100% participation.

Kevin Patton:
It does however bring me to another strategy. One I like better, because it also works for cases where you have no idea which students have filled out their SET. You do need to know how many students have filled it out. You need to know the number of students in total, but not necessarily which particular students have filled it out.

Kevin Patton:
Which is usually the scenario I find myself in. Where I know how many, but I don’t know who. This is also a point for SETs scheme, but it’s a class-wide awarding of points.

Kevin Patton:
Now I’ve tweaked this a few times, but I usually give a few points to the whole class, if there is 90% or better participation in the SET. If they reach 90% of students submitting an evaluation, all students get those points.

Kevin Patton:
If it’s only 87%, then nobody gets the points, whether they’ve filled out the SET or not, as individuals. Now, besides the fact that it can work in cases where I don’t know exactly who’s filled out a survey, it also has some built-in social pressure.

Kevin Patton:
That is, students will question one another and encourage one another, and even put a bit of pressure on one another, to get those evaluations submitted. I’ve overheard students saying, “Hey, look, I need every point I can get. Will you please turn in an evaluation?”

Kevin Patton:
Now, I’ve never had a problem getting good numbers when I do this. Moving onto a different strategy, I’ve already mentioned steps we can take to coach students on how learning works, and encouraging them to regularly think about their own learning.

Kevin Patton:
All of which helps them more helpfully evaluate us as teachers in the end. Now I want to suggest, that there is even more that we can do in educating students on how to do evaluations.

Kevin Patton:
Besides it helping us in our situation, we’re trying to get the best results from our SETs, this kind of tutoring of students and how to evaluate performance, is also helpful to them as they go forward into their health professions and other careers.

Kevin Patton:
They’ll have to evaluate peers and people they supervise, often without any special training on how to do that. If they can learn a little bit of that from us, boom, done our jobs in prepping them. How do we do that?

Kevin Patton:
In the HAPI program, the master of science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction program, in which I teach, we use a tool developed by one of our faculty, Dr. Amy Simolo. It’s used throughout the entire institution.

Kevin Patton:
It’s a one-page outline we give students, as they fill out the course evaluations, that teaches them how to engage in the process effectively. It’s called, Writing Constructive and Actionable Course Evaluation Feedback, a Guide for NYCC students.

Kevin Patton:
Now it’s too long to read through here, but it offers six main points, along with a clarification of each point and examples of student statements, that can be rewritten in a more constructive and actionable manner. What’s important are those six points and I’ll give you those.

Kevin Patton:
The first one is, be respectful. The second one is, focus on observable behavior. Third one is, be constructive. Fourth one is, offer actionable solutions. The fifth one is, stay on point. The last one is, give constructive and specific praise.

Kevin Patton:
Now at my community college, where I’m currently teaching a biology refresher course called pre-A&P, I use a much shorter variation of that approach. In this online course, I have regular announcements that go out.

Kevin Patton:
Mostly encouraging students to keep working in this self-paced course, and reminding them of important upcoming deadlines and requirements and so on. One of those announcements, announces the availability of the student evaluation of teaching, which is called CourseEval in our canvas platform.

Kevin Patton:
Here’s the main part of that announcement to my students. As you listen, pay attention to those points that Amy taught me about filling out evaluations. That little beep that you’re going to hear, comes after a phrase that is hyperlinked to an outside resource.

Robot:
Except for all those glowing testimonials about this course that you were sending to the college president, my bosses have very little knowledge of what’s going on in our course. Okay, I tell them all the time about our course and provide data about how successful y’all are, but they and I want your opinion too.

Robot:
First, take a moment to reflect on your hard work. That desirable difficulty, resulting in the progress you’ve made in refreshing all those forgotten concepts, and filled in the gaps for those concepts you somehow missed learning along the way.

Robot:
Then will you please take a moment now to fill out the super brief, super easy course of our survey? Please remember to be professional, respectful and constructive in your responses. If you do that, stay focused on just this course/instructor.

Robot:
Note specific things that helped you, and offer actionable solutions that improve learning. Then my bosses and I, will be more likely to understand and value your opinion, and take actions that will help future students in this course. Cheers, Kevin.

Kevin Patton:
Earlier, I made the statement that I’d advocate for throwing out institutional SETs altogether. I swear, I heard a few gasps out there when I said that. What would I offer in their place? I don’t know, just because I think something is broken beyond repair and should be thrown out, does that mean something needs to replace it.

Kevin Patton:
Maybe we never needed a something in the first place. In this case, I think there is a something we need. I can’t say I or anyone really, has the definitive answer. A possible answer is that, instead of an institutional SET, why don’t we have SETs that are customized for courses or groups of similar courses?

Kevin Patton:
Or maybe customized for courses and customized for teachers as well. Even though at both places where I currently teach, we have institutional SETs, I also do my own evaluations. I’ve been doing this for a long time and in every institution where I’ve taught, going back to when I taught high school courses.

Kevin Patton:
We’re talking decades here. One way I’ve done this, is to simply have an additional survey for students to take. Making their evaluation sort of a two-step process. One step is the college SET. The other one is the course SET. An advantage to making my own survey, is that I can ask my own questions.

Kevin Patton:
These are questions that fit my course, because I don’t think the items on the college SETs do that very well. I can have a set of questions that change around, if I want feedback on new things that I’m experimenting with that term.

Kevin Patton:
Another advantage, is that I can put in some items that sort of pull students into thinking about their experience in a course, in a formative way. For example, I might ask if the difficulties they overcame actually produced learning.

Kevin Patton:
That can sort of mitigate any unpleasant memories they have, of working so hard in their A&P course. While at the same time, encouraging them to feel good about the challenges they overcame, the difficulties they worked through to get to where they are now.

Kevin Patton:
I think it was way back in episode 17, where I first mentioned how I’ve used face-to-face debriefing sessions at the end of the term, to get course and teaching feedback. These have worked really well for me when I’ve done them.

Kevin Patton:
Along the same lines as the debriefing sessions, are course reflections, which I also mentioned way back in episode 17. I better check that to make sure it’s episode 17. If you’re hearing 17 and I didn’t edit it out, it really was that and I will be amazed that I remembered it.

Kevin Patton:
I usually do these reflections in the form of an online discussion thread. As a matter of fact, something I also mentioned in this podcast a few times, is that this process is built into every course in the HAPI program.

Kevin Patton:
We all do a mid-course reflection and an end of course reflection. I also do an additional reflection in one of my courses, where they evaluate their experience when completing a required project.

Kevin Patton:
What I like about having a survey or debriefing session, or a reflection or some combination near the beginning, middle and end of the course, is that it allows students to have a voice throughout the course. It allows me to get feedback when I can still take action on it, if needs be.

Kevin Patton:
It keeps students doing that metacognitive work, of monitoring their own thoughts about what… or even if they’re learning. As I’ve also mentioned in past episodes, there’s evidence that just the act of expressing their thoughts, especially any frustrations they have, can do a lot to reduce stress. That my friends, is golden.

Kevin Patton:
I’ll be back with more, stay with me, okay?

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton:
I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but wow, isn’t it amazing how HAPS, the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society has pivoted over the last year, to provide just what A&P teachers need, when we need it and in a friendly life-giving way?

Kevin Patton:
Virtual conferences, day long or longer brief virtual town hall meetings, where we can learn specific topics. Or share strategies for specific problems or issues, or well, just get together and have a good time with each other. All that while HAPS is still working on helpful resources in the background.

Kevin Patton:
I mean, yeah, we have an amazing responsive staff, and some brilliant and energetic people in our leadership and on our committees, but still, wow, I’m so glad I’m a member of HAPS.

Kevin Patton:
I’m so glad they provide marketing support for this podcast, as part of their mission of promoting excellence in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology. If you want to know more about HAPS, go visit them at theAPprofessor/haps. That’s, HAPS.

Reactive Strategies

Kevin Patton:
Okay, so I’ve discussed some proactive strategies and some active strategies. Now, it’s time for some reactive strategies. One of those is teaching to the evaluation. What I mean by that, is to be very familiar with my institution’s SET items and keep those in mind when I teach.

Kevin Patton:
I can then intentionally use the language they use, to point out to students what I’m doing that is meeting those expectations. For example, if there’s an item that asks if the instructor is available to help students outside of class, then I will intentionally repeat that phrase several times throughout the course.

Kevin Patton:
State that the instructor is available to help students outside of class, in the syllabus and in the course announcements and well, everywhere it makes sense. If it’s a face-to-face class, I might often say, “Hey, I know this concept is difficult, but you know that I’m your instructor.

Kevin Patton:
I’m always available outside of class to help you.” Besides priming the pump, so that students will likely give me a high score on that, because I kept reminding them in a way that’s… I don’t know, almost a hypnotic suggestion.

Kevin Patton:
I’m also doing them the service of, regularly encourage them to get help when needed. By repeated use of the language of the SET, when students get to filling out the SET near the end of the course, they won’t have to sit and think, “Was the instructor available to help students outside of class?”

Kevin Patton:
Their brain will have already kicked in with, “Yes, of course. That was offered annoyingly frequently in this course. I’ll give that a five, definitely.” Another strategy that I’ve employed for my A&P courses, is to assemble all of the evaluation data I have for a course.

Kevin Patton:
This could include the college SET results and the results of any surveys, debriefings or reflections that I’ve done myself. It might also include a compilation of grades within the course. I would include notes or other comments from students, both good and bad.

Kevin Patton:
When a student says something to you in the hall like, “Hey, what you did that day was really helpful to me. Or this thing that you always do, really helps me a lot.” Or even, “Hey, can you not face the board when you’re explaining something?”

Kevin Patton:
That’s not such a good comment, but write that down, so that it’s clear that you’re listening for feedback. Whether it’s praising feedback or constructive criticism, or maybe even whining or something like that. That you really are attention to what the students are saying.

Kevin Patton:
Record that, jot it down, so you have a record of it. You assemble those notes and put them together. For comments not made in writing, I try to jot those down on one of those blank note cards that I always carry in my pocket. I’ve mentioned that in previous episodes, and that’s another reason why I do that.

Kevin Patton:
Now, once I’ve assembled all of that data about evaluation and feedback, then I write up a couple or five paragraphs, that emphasizes the strong points and addresses the weak points. Regarding those weak points, I may explain that these were not actual deficiencies, but misinterpretations by students, if that’s the case.

Kevin Patton:
Or perhaps I would mention that, “Yeah, I understand this feedback, but I think it’s really just chafing against realistically high demands of effort in my course.” Or whatever, or maybe some of the weak spots bear some looking into.

Kevin Patton:
I’ll admit that and say, “You know what? I don’t think that explanation really did work. I don’t think that in-class activity, really worked the way I thought it could work. Or it went haywire or something, and so I definitely need to address this for the next time around.”

Kevin Patton:
Well, make sure I come back to those in later years, to show improvement. If one year, yeah, a classroom activity didn’t work out quite the way I wanted it to, I also want to be able to show in later compilations of my data, that I went back to compare that next year’s group activity to the previous year, where I had some problems.

Kevin Patton:
To see, “Did I fix it or is it worse than it was? What can I do next? Or should I even keep that activity in my course?” What that does, is it helps me as a teacher. It helps my students obviously. By keeping track of it, it’s also going to be documentation of my own self-evaluation.

Kevin Patton:
Now, one reason I do all this, and once you get in the habit of doing it, it’s not really as big a choice as it sounds, is that it’s already a part of my regular after-course process that I’ve talked about before.

Kevin Patton:
Where I reflect on the term myself, and wrap up all those loose ends and get my… by now, very messy office straightened up a bit, so that I can go take a break. Having truly finished and reflected on the good I’ve done, and the areas I want to make more progress, so I can come back really ready for a new term.

Kevin Patton:
You know, I’ve worked on that course for over four months. It’s like building a house. When it’s finally finished, I want to a moment to step back and look at it when it’s finished. Think about what went right, and what I want to watch out for next time around.

Kevin Patton:
Take a few photos, so I can remember those things when I look back. Another reason I do this, is so that I can send a copy of that compilation of feedback and my analysis of it. Send a copy to my supervisors, so it’s in their file. Whether they read it or not, it’ll be in their file. I hope they read it.

Kevin Patton:
I know they don’t, but I think they probably do flip through it. Like, “What is this? Why is he giving me this? Oh, well, I’ll have it put in his file.” It’s there, if there are ever any questions or challenges in the future. I’ve already addressed my issues.

Kevin Patton:
It shows my supervisor, what the heck I’m doing in my classes. I have found that most academic administrators are so busy pushing papers, they really don’t have a good idea of what any one of us as individuals are doing in the classroom. Whether that be a lecture room, a lab, or an online classroom.

Kevin Patton:
For me, being so experimental in my approach to teaching, I can honestly tell my dean, when asked about some crazy thing they just heard I’m doing in my courses. Something maybe a troublesome colleague may have complained about me, to the dean. I can say, “I’ve already submitted that information and explained myself.

Kevin Patton:
It’s in your file. Would you like me to send you another copy?” There’s none of that accusation that I’m going off on my own, and not telling anybody anything. I’m telling them, “Hey, here’s what I’m doing. Here’s how it’s working. Here’s what’s working. Here’s what’s not working.

Kevin Patton:
Here’s what I plan on doing about what’s not working.” Obviously if there is a student complaint, or a complaint from a colleague or whatever, then you find yourself being questioned, you have all your ducks in a row. You have substantial evidence you need for your case. I have documentation. I have results.

Kevin Patton:
I have my own interpretations of all my SETs, it’s there and it’s ready to go. Now I’ve never had to do this really, but I do have a strategy ready to employ if I ever do get dressed down for something bad in my student evaluations.

Kevin Patton:
Well, besides always making sure I have teacher’s insurance. What that is, is to be quick to propose a plan for improvement. That is, write down what the issue is, which I’ve hopefully been forming in my head, while I’m being dressed down by my supervisor.

Kevin Patton:
Then write out a strategy for addressing that issue, because you never want to go to a meeting with a dean, without something to write on or something to type on or whatever. I’m already formulating my ideas. Then when a breath is taken, then I can start writing and say, “Okay, let’s get this down.”

Kevin Patton:
I’ll write out a strategy for addressing that issue, probably written in the form of a concern. Like, “Here’s the concern. We’ve identified this concern.” Then I write out something measurable, that would show acceptable progress. Then I’d probably also ask that the college provide me with a teaching coach.

Kevin Patton:
Mainly because, I’ve always wanted to have a professional teaching coach. This would be a great opportunity to ask for one, paid for by somebody other than me. That’s my thoughts. That’s the first thing I’m going to ask for. I’ll, “You know what? I think I needed a teaching coach.”

Kevin Patton:
If I get in there first, with a proposal for such a plan, then it’s going to be really hard for my supervisor to dole out a punishment or, oh my, even fire me. Or now that I’m an adjunct, simply fail to hire me back, because well, I have a plan now.

Kevin Patton:
I’ve just proposed this plan, how are they going to say, “No, we’re not going to support an improvement plan?” I mean, that’d be hard to fight against. It’s really hard to do that. Now here’s something else I do, that’s sort of reactive. It helps address those public professor rating sites that we find online.

Kevin Patton:
I mentioned those in the previous episode. They’re unfair in so many ways, but there’s something that we can do, besides going in there and answering students, which can backfire, because then it makes us sound defensive when we do that. Not that I’m saying we should never do that, but it really puts us on the defensive.

Kevin Patton:
What are some other things that we can do, to kind of fight back the possibility that we might get some inappropriate ratings on those sites? What I mean by inappropriate, I mean, they already have mechanisms for taking out threats and inappropriate language, and things like that. We definitely want to deal with that.

Kevin Patton:
What I mean by inappropriate in this context is, unfair criticism. Things that really don’t apply to our course or really, they’re criticisms of evidence-based strategy that we’re implementing and perhaps implementing it very well. How can we push back?

Kevin Patton:
Well, first let me play you a portion of the course announcement. It’s just a portion of the course announcement, that goes out right after the course ends. Remember, that little sound that you’re going to hear at the end of any phrase or word, is hyperlinked to another resource.

Robot:
If you thought this course helped you review your prior learning of basic biology, fill in any blanks in your training and gain a bit of confidence that you’re ready for A&P, then please click here [tone] and spread the word. However, if you were disappointed with your experience in this course, please click here [tone].

Robot:
Also, email me or call me, and let me know how I can improve future offerings of this course. Really, I can’t fix it if I don’t know it’s broken. If you have any feedback on canvas enrollment or registration, the helpdesk or anything else beyond my control, please contact my dean, Dr. Mara Vorachek-Warren and let her know.

Robot:
She is a very nice person, who loves to help students. Don’t be shy about contacting her. I also provide service after the sale, as part of my lifetime warranty. If you get to A&P and you need some help, give me a yell and I’ll do what I can to help you get back on course. See you down the road.

Kevin Patton:
Now at that first hyperlink, where I direct students who are happy with me and my course, that goes out to what I think is the most popular of the online professor rating sites. It’s kind of like, when business people ask their regular customers, their fans, to rate them on Yelp.

Kevin Patton:
That strategy works for teaching too. “Hey, you like me? You like my course, you like the way this went for you? Here’s the Yelp for professors. Here’s that online site where you can leave your favorable comment and give me a good rating.”

Kevin Patton:
Now, it’s not going to stop disgruntled students from ripping you apart on that site, but at least you’ll have a handful of good reviews to balance out the crazy ones. Now, that second hyperlink you heard, is where I direct my disappointed students.

Kevin Patton:
That goes to a page on my website, that’s I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to describe. It’s unexpected and silly, and it has a short parable pointing out that none of us can satisfy everyone.

Kevin Patton:
I’ve found that by sending them to that silly site that has that kind of a message built into it, that it diffuses the angst of some of my most disgruntled students. Now maybe not all of them, but some of them. Remember, every little bit helps. There is a link in the show notes, if you want to check it out.

Kevin Patton:
Or just go to, lionden.com/manuel, that’s manuel.htm. That’s HTM at the end, not HTML.

Cookies!

Kevin Patton:
One last thing, I think we all know this works. It’s often called bribery, but really it fails to meet that definition I think. What is it? It’s cookies. Yeah, besides it being plain common sense, there’s also evidence backing that up.

Kevin Patton:
A couple of years ago, the journal, Medical Education published the results of a study called Availability of Cookies During an Academic Course Session Affects Evaluation of Teaching.

Kevin Patton:
Now in that paper, they concluded after a series of experiments, that availability of cookies during an academic course session affects evaluation of teaching. Yes, the group that got cookies gave higher SET scores to their teachers, than the group that did not get cookies.

Kevin Patton:
By the way, they used chocolate cookies in their experiments. Now, I’d like to see the results of using blueberry walnut oatmeal cookies, which I suspect may have an even higher correlation to higher SET scores for teachers. Then there’s, fresh out of the oven versus stale cookies, that might affect the results as well.

Kevin Patton:
The point being of course, that if cookies during class have a significant impact on SETs, are they really all that useful? You decide.

Staying Connected

Remember Kevin’s Law of Professional Development? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It’s been a long time since I last mentioned it.

Kevin Patton:
Well, Kevin’s Law Professional Development states that if you learn just one new thing in a professional development experience, it’s worth it. That law also applies, if you think about something a little bit differently. Maybe giving you an idea for being a more effective educator.

Kevin Patton:
Well, I hope you got at least one thing out of this episode. If you did, there is an easy way to share this podcast with a peer and also earn yourself a little bit of cash. Simply go to the approfessor.org/refer, to get a personalized share link.

Kevin Patton:
That will not only get your friend all set up in a podcast player of their choice, it also gets you on your way to earning a cash reward. Refer two friends who subscribe, and you get $5. Refer 10 friends, and you get $25.

Kevin Patton:
Links, if you don’t see links in your podcast player, go to the show notes at the episode page at, theAPprofessor/85, where you can explore any ideas mentioned in this podcast. Of course, you’re always encouraged to call in with your questions, comments and ideas, at the podcast hotline.

Kevin Patton:
That’s one, 1-833-LION-DEN. Or 1-833-546-6336, or send a recording or written message to podcast@theAPprofessor. You’re invited to join my private A&P teaching community way off the social platforms at, theAPprofessor.org/Community. I’ll see you down the road.

Aileen:
The A&P Professor is hosted by Dr. Kevin Patton, an award-winning professor and textbook author in human anatomy and physiology.

Kevin Patton:
After opening this episode, if you find that parts are missing, do not return it where you got it. Instead, call our consumer hotline at 1-833-546-6336.

 

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Last updated: April 9, 2021 at 15:00 pm

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