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As a student, I know that some lecturers just do a better job at getting their point across than others, consequently I would give them better feedback than others. I assume that teachers receive their feedback, so they know how popular they are with students. And presumably, they also talk about it with colleagues.

I imagine this to be a considerable source of conflict between academics, so I was wondering: How do those in a teaching role at a university/college/... deal with this problem? Does student feedback create awkwardness between colleagues, or is there some kind of unspoken law not to talk about student feedback?

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    This question is based on the assumption that faculty value student feedback and want high marks. In some (many?) US research universities, the only ones who do are the ones who are already getting good scores, and the others really don't care. Some faculty see the only goal as being not to get such low scores that the administration becomes upset. Others are suspicious of high scores and wonder whether that indicates an easy grader. In any case, I don't see a lot of discussion beyond complaints that it's more of a popularity contest than a fair measure of teaching success. – Anonymous Mathematician May 8 '12 at 16:24
  • While that's quite insulting to students' ablity to give neutral feedback, it's some interesting insight. Thanks :) It's true that I did assume student feedback is actually valued. I imagine it may be more so here in the UK because university rankings solely depending on student feedback are often what applicants use to gauge where to apply. Otherwise, the whole 'Your feedback is important to us' deal is a pretentious sham. – Armatus May 8 '12 at 16:30
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    Yeah, it's depressing. There are real issues with student feedback (it can be biased in some ways, and it's not clear that the perception of learning a lot or enjoying the course really tells us what we want to know about student learning - it's possible that the students who hate the course and feel terribly confused are actually the ones developing the skills that will serve them best in the future). However, it's one of the most useful tools we have to distinguish between good and bad teaching, and we shouldn't dismiss it just because it's far from perfect. Sadly, this can happen. – Anonymous Mathematician May 8 '12 at 16:38
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    "I imagine this to be a considerable source of conflict between academics" - No. :) – Suresh May 8 '12 at 17:31
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    ...except when someone dares suggest that someone else's teaching just isn't good enough. – JeffE May 8 '12 at 18:29
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My feeling is that most colleagues just don't care about the feedback. Long before those feedbacks generalized, we already knew who are the good and bad teachers. However, when I was in charge of one year of our engineering program, I tried to move teachers from the lectures where they were poorly graded. It's not easy, but it's do-able. Luckily, it seems uncommon to be globally bad at teaching, so I was always able to find a place for everyone.

  • It's good to hear people do tend to grow up after all, at least in some respects :) – Armatus May 8 '12 at 18:36

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