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

Branch, Charles
Academic question,   pp. 20-23


Page 22


CHARLES BRADLEY, '35, instructor in
geology: Carrying on the traditions of
a famous Wisconsin name.
DAVID FELLMAN, professor of political
science: He makes his students think.
NORMAN CAMERON, x'33, professor
of psychology: An entire state follows
his radio course.
22
ages original thinking, demands only memory work; assignments: none,
reasonable, inconsistent, too short, too long occasionally, too long; exams:
returned? discussed?; presentation of current sidelights on material: fre-
quently, occasionally, never; voice: audible, inaudible; text: stimulating,
average, too easy, too difficult; content of exams: fair and thoughtful,
too
long, ambiguous, tricky, reasonable selection of subject matter, based on
minor details, much cheating, little cheating, poor supervision, proper super-
vision; grading: just and fair, too mechanical, too lenient, too severe;
treatment of students: always courteous, usually courteous, sometimes dis-
courteous, always discourteous; outside reading: very fair, not enough, too
much, unreasonable, stimulating, dull, too easy, trite, too difficult.
  Were you given enough tests? Does the teaching inspire you to work
hard? Would you advise another student to take this course with this in-
structor? Of all the instructors you've had, would you place this one in
the upper third, middle third, lower third? Do you feel that instructor has
mastered his field markedly, average, little, very little? Compared with
other courses on this level and for equal amount of credit, would you rate
this course very hard, average, easy, very easy?
  What do you think is the attitude of the class as a whole toward this
course-favorable, average, unfavorable? Are discussion sections helpful?
How? Could they be more so? How? Do you think your high school work
or any special training should have exempted you from taking this course
as a pre-requisite? Do you think the course set-up could be improved-
more or less quiz periods or lab periods, longer or shorter lab periods?
In which part of this course have you learned the most-lecture, quiz, lab?
Does the textbook assume knowledge on your part which you don't have? Is
the author's point of view clear? Were lectures, text, discussions, and lab
well correlated? Was the class small enough for you to expect the teacher
to learn your name ? Did he ?
Shock-Absorber Dean
  After the student has filled out his reaction sheets, he mails them in
to
the University's dean of instruction-the distinctive feature of the Schnei-
der plan. Most schools which have adopted a reaction sheet program have
wondered what to do with the sheets after they were filled out-some-
times sending them to instructors rated, sometimes to department heads,
sometimes to a faculty committee. Often they've been dumped into the
nearest empty closet and forgotten.
  Schneider would create the position of dean of instruction. The dean
would serve not unlike a director of public health (in charge of healthy
student-faculty relations)-a full-time job calling for all the courage, pa-
tience, tact, diligence, and integrity of a Frank Holt. The dean would have
no academic power at all. He would keep his finger on the pulse of the school
and report danger signals to the proper authorities. He would be the trusted
receiver and guardian of the reaction sheets. To his office could go those
students with real or fancied grievances, those teachers who wish to check
up on their techniques; those administrators who need to know about a
man's teaching abilities before raising or lowering salaries, apportioning
budgets, scheduling promotions, drawing up recommendations for transfers,
or lowering the boom on an unfit prof. The dean would be advisor to the
president, friend of the student, counsellor of the graduate assistant-who
is often immersed in financial or amorous problems at the crucial stage of
his teaching career. He would also be a shock absorber-protecting the grad
assistant from occasional harsh criticism that turns up in a sheaf of pre-
dominantly favorable comments.
  The dean would not be a one-man Gestapo; his recommendations would
be subject to review by other agencies. He would personify the public
interest, protect the rights of the faculty and the administration as well
as
of the students. He should have the courage to speak up when he sees that
somewhere in the shuffle his reports are shelved and conveniently forgotten.
He should also act as public defender when old-fashioned administrators or
trustees or hostile colleagues want to oust a man under the excuse of "poor
teaching." He would have in his office actual reports on the man's work
over a number of semesters and thus could protect him from ill-founded
charges.
  He could also bring to public notice the good teaching done in small
departments or small classes, the nature of which would not otherwise lend
itself to recognition or publicity.
  Schneider sets up other guideposts to success in following his plan:
    1. The ratings are not a matter of statistics. There is little value
in tallying
  so many votes for and so many against. Numbers don't matter. Sometimes
  only one student will have the insight to suggest an improvement or to
lay
  his finger on the weakness of a course.
    2. The evaluation would counteract the disease germs-of bigness: the
tend-
  ency of both students and teachers to see themselves as part of a gigantic
  machine, wherein no one cares for their opinions or notices what they are
  putting into or getting out of their work.
    3. Students should not be asked to rate their teachers "for the
personal
  information of the president" or any other administrator. The sheets
should
  be imprinted with something to the effect that "this survey is made
at the
  invitation of your instructor."
                                               WISCONSIN ALUMNUS


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