Wall Street Journal: When Students Rate Teachers, Standards Drop

The subtitle is also very telling (and relevant to untenured professors like myself):

Why do colleges tie academic careers to winning the approval of teenagers? Something is seriously amiss.

The title of this post and the above subtitle are from a recent (October 27, 2013) Wall Street Journal article.  I agree that student feedback provides information to the professor.  I also agree that academic careers should not be tied “to winning the approval” of students.  Students in my class already know that I am not trying to win a popularity or approval contest.  Approval from students is not the goal.  Attainment of perfect understanding of the material is the goal.

Yesterday a couple students stopped by my office.  One comment was that I teach as if I expect students to know the material already.  That is untrue.  I don’t expect students to know the new material presented in the course.  I do have expectations.  I expect students in a junior/senior level finance class to have already mastered algebra and basic accounting.  Business calculus and accounting are prerequisites for the courses I teach.  So, if expecting a mastery of algebra and basic accounting is “high expectations” then I am guilty.  Actually, I don’t expect it, I require it. The course requires it.  So if you are behind in either of those areas it is on you to catch up using the available resources.

I will end with another quote from the article:

One of these studies, “Academically Adrift” (2011) by sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, suggests a couple of steps that could help remedy the problem: “high expectations for students and increased academic requirements in syllabi . . . coupled with rigorous grading standards that encourage students to spend more time studying.” [emphasis added]

In this regard I feel more a part of the solution than part of the problem.   🙂

Historical risk vs. return for 12 industries


Visit my Rpubs post.  Note the efficient frontier plots and weights in Section 3. It is interesting that although the Telecom sector looks undesirable in isolation (Section 2.3) it is desirable in a diversified portfolio (Sections 3.2 and 3.3).  More on portfolio theory another day…

Some thoughts on recent developments in online education

In the past couple weeks I was referred to  this video regarding online education and I met a couple publisher representatives about a new online eBook.  “We must meet students where they are and they are on the internet looking at Facebook,” was told to me by the publisher representative.    Those representatives were pushing for me to adopt their new online eBook in my classes for the Fall.

While the eBook is nice, with multiple videos and examples embedded in the text, I felt “my goodness, we sure are spoon feeding students these days.”  I told that to the publishers.  I also mentioned the equivalent of their eBook is available right now in print form.  On reserve at the library I have placed three textbooks and four Schaum’s outline series books with thousands of worked out example problems.  What’s the difference between looking at examples on a computer screen or going to the library to look at them?  We probably could go on and on about the pros and cons of both.  For now, let’s move on to dialectic reasoning about online vs. traditional learning.

  • Thesis: Today’s students are fine.  Today’s instruction needs adjustment.  You must adjust instruction methods to meet the new students of today.
  • Anti-thesis: Instruction is fine.  Today’s students need  to adjust.  Students need to get off of Facebook and get in the library with books from a diverse author base.
  • Synthesis: Students and instruction both need to adjust.

I must admit, I am in-between the “anti-thesis” and “synthesis” positions.  All this talk of “new students of today” reminds me of the “New Economy.”  I remember telling my boss after our startup was acquired in 2000  “our P/E ratio is 400, shouldn’t we sell our stock?”  His reply?  “Your MBA doesn’t apply anymore, this is a New Economy.”  We all know what happened after that.  The fundamentals returned. The stock market plummeted.

I see the same thing here with education.  Replace “New Economy” with “New Students” or “New instructional methods.” Fundamentals will return.  Students will have to spend time and study.

Let me throw one more dart at Facebook as I close.  Economic growth results from productivity enhancing technological innovation.   This is a Schumpetarian view on economic growth.  I ask, how has technological innovation such as Facebook enhanced anyone’s productivity?  Is there a connection between the productivity reducing technological progress called “social media” and lower economic growth?

ASU seeks to end staff contracts

As usual, my two or three cents before you jump into the article (20130116_ASU_Contracts):

The president of Arizona State University along with the administration are proposing ending one-year contracts for roughly 1/3 of benefits eligible employees.  Make no mistake, this means less job security combined with the already below-market wages for those employees.  Allow me to draw a parallel to corporate America:

Corporate America: Executives including presidents, CEOs, board members, etc. all look out for one another.  They take actions to maximize their compensation (big stock packages) and job security (expensive golden parachutes) while also taking actions to minimize pay of the labor force (anti-competitive agreements) and reduce their job security (little to no contracts).  Executive job security and high compensation come at the expense of the broader labor force.

ASU’s recent push: same thing.  Replace executives with “higher level university administration” and labor force with everyone else.

I hope everyone is beginning to see the trend in our current state of capitalism.  The few (1%) extract wealth from the many (99%) be it in a public-good taxpayer funded university (ASU), or a private industry company like HP (see recent post on Meg Whitman’s $30M+ in compensation while losing money for HP).  In both cases the 1% are able to maintain their high compensation and job security while suppressing the pay of the 99%.

The ASU president thinks it is a great idea to go performance-based and eliminate contracts.  Fine, why doesn’t he lead by tearing up his own contract and going performance based?    There is one problem: who evaluates the 1%?  In corporate america it is other 1%ers.  Will we see the same environment that we do in corporate america where “performance” is defined by those who are being evaluated?

$5,000 scholarship opportunity: business plan competition

Below is an email I received.  Perhaps a group of students out there would be interested in writing a business plan and competing for the $5,000 scholarship.
Dear Business Professor,
Please inform your students that My Sister’s House is holding a Business Plan Scholarship Competition for undergraduate and graduate students. The goal is to create a revenue-generating activity that offers job training opportunities for the clients of our domestic violence agency. The business plan must include the following:
  • a feasibility component,
  • identification of implementation needs or requirements, and
  • revenue forecasting
A $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to the winning student-team or university. The deadline to submit the business plan is Thursday, February 28, 2013. For more information, please contact our Executive Director, Nilda Valmores, at (916) 868-7820 or at nildamsh@gmail.comFor more information about My Sister’s House, please visit our website at www.my-sisters-house.org.


Jennifer Pangilinan

Data Evaluator/Administrative Assistant
My Sister’s House