Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Evaluation strangling aspiration of teachers

By Chung Pang-yu 鍾邦友

Taiwan celebrated Teachers’ Day on Confucius’ assumed birthday last Sunday. However, as a part-time assistant professor at a university, I was busy with all the paperwork for my teaching evaluation as well as an external course review, and was not in the mood to celebrate at all that day.

For the past several years, colleges and universities have been obsessed with evaluations of one kind or another. Even part-time teachers like me have to do them. I am required to complete an evaluation on my performance once every two years.

Originally, the purpose of such an evaluation was to assist teachers to review their performance.

However, as universities compete for funds from the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) “teaching excellence project,” there are now countless checklists and indices for every evaluation and things are getting out of control.

First, university lecturers are required to consider whether their courses are in line with the basic elements expressed in the university motto, which include humanistic, civic, moral, scientific and many other aspects.

Next, they have to assess the degree to which the course encompasses the fundamentals of “general education” — the capacity of the students to learn, their social skills, moral character and levels of personal creativity.

Then they have to determine to what extent the course covers less obvious aspects of education, such as strategic thinking and artistic appreciation.

Each section of the self-evaluation form contains an essay question, whether the course is on opera appreciation, finance or swimming. Such an absurd level of self-evaluation amounts to nothing short of a writing contest, and the number of criteria that need to be assessed has increased by the year.

As the tasks become ever more complex and numerous, lecturers have no time to prepare their courses or give their students guidance.

The external course review also consists of checking that various teaching metrics are covered in the course. When lecturers propose a course, they first need to show that a variety of metrics for writing are met, and specify both the strengths and weaknesses of the course by those criteria.

Then they need to deconstruct the way they are to teach it, turning in something like a detailed movie script. Once the proposal passes the three-level internal peer review, it is sent to three professors at other universities for further peer review.

As a result, many outstanding vocational or technical school teachers can no longer bear the sheer frustration and quit. From the pressure on part-time teachers, it must be assumed that the burden on full-time teachers is even heavier. Can such laughable word games really enhance courses and the standard of teaching?

On Sept. 25, economist Ma Kai (馬凱) proposed the “educational theory of national subjugation,” which said that the policy of increasing the number of universities across the nation is not the only mistake of Taiwan’s educational reforms.

He said that university evaluation pays excessive attention to what faculty members publish and universities force teaching staff to strive for promotion. As a result both teaching staff and university administrators value research more than teaching.

This imbalance in the system of course review and teaching evaluation is a source of chaos that jeopardizes Taiwan’s higher education and the whole nation.

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