Student Evaluations – Part 3

In Part 2 of the post “Student Evaluations,” I said: “…perhaps evaluations are better directed at faculty than students, to help assure that graduates have learned the skills that, if put into practice, will help them make fewer and less significant errors.”

Teacher evaluations have a negative connotation and clearly disrespect teachers because they personalize problems. Blaming people is a stupid and ineffective solution to problems. And nobody likes to be blamed for problems. The sensible thing to do, consistent with Lean teaching, is to kaizen each course in an academic program, as described here.

This re-frames an adversarial focus on what teachers do wrong to a collegial, team-based activity focused on how teaching processes can be improved. The shift from people to process is necessary because most people would rather improve processes than be blamed for problems. This is key to overcoming stasis in higher education.

Improvement requires people’s participation, yet threatening evaluations will garner little support and immediately initiate defensive routines. Kaizen, in contrast, is non-zero-sum (win-win), by definition, for a reason: to be non-threatening in order to gain people’s participation in improvement. Kaizen allows people’s ideas, energy, and enthusiasm to flow, which helps humanize the workplace.

Faculty, staff, students, alumni, employers, and administrators participating in kaizen will do great things. It is an eye-opening experience that everyone will enjoy, especially faculty.

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