Harvard Macy Institute Podcast

The Harvard Macy Institute Podcast S2 E8: A Curious Case of the Phantom Professor with with Bas Uijtdehaage and Lauren Germain

September 20, 2021

The Harvard Macy Institute Podcast aims to connect our Harvard Macy Institute community and to develop our interest in health professions education topics and literature. Our podcast is hosted by our Program for Educators in the Health Professions course faculty Victoria Brazil, and features interviews with health professions educators about their scholarly work.

S2 E8 podcast is a conversation between Vic Brazil, Sebastian (Bas) Uijtdehaage, and Lauren Germain about why student evaluations of teaching (SETs) can appear ‘mindless,’ and about the inadequacies of many student evaluation systems in educational institutions.

We use a humorous but sobering article as our departure point for the conversation - A curious case of the phantom professor: mindless teaching evaluations by medical students. Bas gives us the background to the article, and we reflect on “three risk factors that may encourage ‘mindless’ evaluation practices: (i) the cognitively taxing nature of SETs; (ii) the lack of perceived impact of SETs on the curriculum, and (iii) the degree to which the evaluation task is experienced as just another routine ‘chore’.”

This challenge is compounded by a lack of reliability in SETs, poor correlation between student evaluation and learning outcomes, recent work confirming gender, racial/ethnic, and attractiveness , and the paradox of using desirable difficulties in teaching and improving learning outcomes.

But it is not all doom and gloom! Lauren and Bas offer us alternative approaches to SETs – including more authentic engagement with students, ‘prediction based’ methods, qualitative approaches such as focus groups and dialogue based evaluation, and peer observation of teaching.

Lovely wisdom from two thoughtful leaders in the field of assessment and evaluation, and closely aligned with the principles underpinning the Harvard Macy Institute Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education.


Happy listening!


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