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Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 50, Number 10 (July 1949)

Branch, Charles
Academic question,   pp. 20-23


Page 21


teaching. Birth is still an ordeal for mother and child, medical progress
notwithstanding. The birth of a curriculum is a painful ordeal for faculty
and students until the infant learns to walk by itself.
  6. The problem of research. The heretofore artificial antagonism between
teaching and research now approaches validity with the emergence of an
ever-dearer double standard of salary that leans in favor of research. This'
is pointed up by Dr. Waldo G. Leland, director of the Council of Learned
Societies:
    "Research, which should vitalize teaching, has too often -been used
merely
  as an excuse for doing as little teaching as possible, or as a sort of
compensa-
  tion for poor teaching... Students will not find compensation for ill-prepared,
  poorly presented, utterly flat lectures on English literature in the knowledge
  that the teacher has published a word-count of an obscure writer whom,
for
  excellent reasons, no one ever reads, or that he has recently read a paper
  before the Union Pacific Philological and Literary Association on a com-
  parative study of the itineraries in Pilgrim's Progress and G0ulliver'8
Travels."
  Adds Dr. A. G. Ruthven, president of the University of Michigan:
    "In many institutions undesirable conditions prevail because it
is difficult
  to eliminate the drones and superfluous men on the staff. There are professors
  who teach little and investigate less; those who deliberately shirk responsi-
  bility, some who, although engaged as investigators, have done little more
  than talk about research since their arrival on campus, and still others
who
  tire and bore and confuse students and shbw no signs of wishing to improve
  anything but their salaries."
  These valid problems seem to focus in one major need: a system of teach-
ing evaluation.
Deified and Damned
   This need has been met by many schools in a system of faculty grading
by the students. It's a highly controversial device, and its number one
exponent, Dr. Franz Schneider, professor of German at the University of
California, has been alternately deified and damned for his 35-year crusade
in its behalf. His basic idea has been adopted in various forms by the Uni-
versities of Michigan, California, Washington, Lehigh, Purdue, and Queens
College. In addition, hundreds of teachers around the country (including
a
handful at Wisconsin) have individually used his rating forms in their own
classes.. (a. hig"hl'f  co -nm'm a'r bl'l=,  -",+.'  'wb'h h  U..-,
,,,   44., . ..  '1-1,--  -e'. .
teaching where it is least urgent).                                     
       MYRON P. BACKUS, '28, professor of
  In essence, the idea isn't new. It's a form   of consumer reaction which
     botany: The co-discoverer of Q-176
long ago took the business world by storm. One professor has this to say:
      penicillin is also an outstanding
    "Modern editors are encouraging readership surveys; modern businessmen
     teacher.
  spend thousands to have the public rate their products; but the modern
teacher
  has no medium through which he can determine student reaction to his courses.
  If teaching were tied up with the profit system, if wastefulness in the
class-
  room could make itself felt in direct loss of revenue, then perhaps steps
would
  be takenL moreI- quickly to limprove Leacning metnocis."
  Aristotle himself probably bent an occasional ear toward. his students
to
see that they hadn't fallen off the conversational sled at the last turn
of
thought. For decades the upperclassmen at Eastern schools have unoffici 
  y
rated courses and teachers for the benefit of incoming freshmen; it's a
going function of most fraternities, sororities, and other student groups;
some campus newspapers (notably the Harvard Crimson) even publish
these ratings.
  Time magazine told its readers recently about the Michigan experiment:
    "Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts decided
to find out
  about its own faculty. Last December it asked its 7500 students to grade
their
  professors. Last week the university began to add up the score. On the
whole
  the faculty scored about a B-plus. Only five professors had flubbed badly.
  At the end of the year the teachers will be allowed to see their report
cards.
  Some will be pleased ('This is the only class I really hate to cut'). Others
will
  be embarrassed ('I have come to dread going to his class'). So far the
pro-
  fessors had no reason to worry: the questionnaires were still experimental.
  But by next year they would be a major factor in deciding faculty promotions.
  A bad grade year after year might well lead to dismissal."
  The Milwaukee Journal gave the Michigan plan its editorial endorsement:
    "If college students had free choice in the matter, a lot of professors
  would have no classes. If college professors had to depend on voluntary
daily
  admission fees for an income, a lot of pedagogs would be on the way to
the
  poorhouse. It should be worth while for college administrators to know
what
  students think of professors. They are in a position to pass pretty fair
  judgment on his ability to arouse interest, to stimulate thinking, to express
  himself clearly. The Michigan experiment should be watched with interest.
  It seems to offer some real possibilities for improving the effectiveness
of
  college teaching."
Sixty-Four Dollar Quiz
   The Michigan and Schneider plans are hardly twins, but they have much
 HENRY AHLGREN, '31, professor of
in common. Here's how the Schneider plan works:                         
       agronomy: His teaching and research
   After the student has received his grades, he is mailed a "reaction
sheet"   on ladino clover help "keep Wiscon-
for each course. Filling it out is optional. The sheet calls for ratings
of  sin green." He probably could have
instructors, courses, and texts, and answers- to a -series of questions-
 been dean 'pf the College of Agricul-
   Course material: well organized, loosely organi'ed, .indefinite and confus-
 ture. but "heC declined to. sacrifice
ing; content of lecture: interesting, mildly ijteresting, dull; recitation:
en- teachind &und "Yesearch for adminis-
courages questions, answers questions when asked, ignores questions, encour-
 tration.
21
JULY, 1949


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