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The Hippo and the Panda Talk Teaching

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9 Responses

  1. Paul Gowder says:

    (I think the hippo in that picture at the bottom is pretty cute. Not, admittedly, as cute as the panda, but still…)

    (What if students are learning fine from hippos, but they don’t realize it? Then, no grade penalty.)

  2. matt says:

    I had almost the same two thoughts as Paul: 1) I actually thing hippos are cuter than pandas, at least so long as the hippos don’t show their teeth too much since they are sort of scary. 2) more seriously, even if students report they learn less well or enjoy themselves less or whatever evaluations are supposed to tell us from “hippos” rather than pandas, should we assume that they _actually_ learn less well from them? Some might, because they refuse to listen, perhaps, but I’d expect many to learn just as well, since they are being taught not worse, but have a false subjective report of learning less well, since they are biased. Do you know if anyone has tried to tease these things apart with any success?

  3. Dana Nguyen says:

    Sarah Lawsky is officially my favorite guest blogger at the Co-Op. This is a brilliang and interesting post. I like both hippos and pandas, so what does that say about me?

    There are a few cognitive psych studies about priming and the correction of bias. Once aware of prejudice, people can prime themselves to be aware of that tendency and correct I am of the Tetlockian school of slight skepticism about the IAT as a measurement instrument of implicit bias, but the priming/correction literature is promising. I will try to dig up some cites and forward them to you!

  4. Dana Nguyen says:

    I have no idea what “brilliang” means, and so I suspect I meant “brilliant.”

  5. Ace says:

    Why are we to assume a correlation between a student getting good grades and giving a good evaluation. Anecdotally, I earned an A in the class taught by the worst law professor I have ever had. I was able to recite basic stuff on the exam but didn’t really learn anything. “Learning” material and exam grades are worlds apart. “Bias” and “learning” are even further apart.

  6. anon says:

    Ugliness in humans, I think, seems to be a more complex phenomenon than ugliness in hippos or pandas. One either finds hippos cute or not, as commenters have made clear. But one might find one’s teacher “ugly” because he isn’t inspiring, looks ugly, is sloppy, treats people badly, is unclear, is unfair, shows up late and smelling of alcohol, has three hairy moles on his nose, or for a host of other reasons. Some of these, I take it, you think are “bigotry” while others are not — maybe they are even legitimate reasons to think someone ugly (are there any such reasons, or are they all irrational ‘I like pandas better than hippos’ kinds of reasons?). How would you disaggregate all the bad stuff from the good in a nice neat, rational formula, such as the one your rational hippo cottons to?

  7. A.J. Sutter says:

    I agree with Dana Nguyen about your guest-blogging stint, despite not knowing whether you are a panda or a hippo.

    I’m not in the teaching biz, so please permit me some dumb questions: is the real issue here student evaluations and their impact on tenure decisions? Do they have any impact? And are there really studies such as you suggest? For what are “panda” and “hippo” code words, in that case — gender, ethnicity, &c., or qualities like charm vs mumbling?

    Looking back, I’d have to say that of these factors (a) liking the prof, (b) liking the subject, (c) attending the class after the second week, (d) getting B+ or better, the only ones that were positively correlated for me were (b) and (d). Condition (c) obtained very rarely during my 2d and 3d years, anyway, regardless of factor (a). I can think of only one subject where (a) might have positively influenced (b), which was tax, you’ll be happy to hear; but it wasn’t a life-changing event. In at least one case, non-(c) caused (d); that’s because I’d studied based on the syllabus, and was able to prepare adequately for an exam question that was 50% of the exam. The prof (who was both a hippo and a turtle) didn’t get to that topic until the last 20 minutes of the last class, I later learned.

    Now, that was in the dark ages of the Reagan era. My profs were incredibly non-diverse: all male, none openly gay, only one Asian-American, and only two others Jewish, both of them over 65 and born outside US. In the UC system in San Francisco, no less. So if you’re talking in code about a gender/ethnicity/ etc.-based bestiary, my experience won’t account for much. If you’re talking smart/funny/pompous/alcoholic/ etc., it’s much more relevant. Still, that shouldn’t discourage you from being concerned about the quality of your teaching. That way you may at least connect with some of your students some of the time.

  8. Em says:

    There’s a nice review here:

    http://mtprof.msun.edu/Fall2006/fischer.html

    Highlights:

    * students’ ratings correlate positively with students’ expected grades

    * ratings taken after students have received grades or during a final examination period tend to be lower

    * although findings on the point are mixed, instructors’ female gender has been found to affect student ratings negatively.

    * Students …rated highly a speaker they had never heard and a film they had never seen

    * Students “give high ratings in appreciation for lenient grading.”

    * Instructors are diluting course rigor out of concern about student evaluations.

  9. Em says:

    There’s a nice review here:

    http://mtprof.msun.edu/Fall2006/fischer.html

    Highlights:

    * students’ ratings correlate positively with students’ expected grades

    * ratings taken after students have received grades or during a final examination period tend to be lower

    * although findings on the point are mixed, instructors’ female gender has been found to affect student ratings negatively.

    * Students …rated highly a speaker they had never heard and a film they had never seen

    * Students “give high ratings in appreciation for lenient grading.”

    * Instructors are diluting course rigor out of concern about student evaluations.