Fifteen years ago, Omega University implemented a new procedure that encouraged students to evaluate the teaching effectiveness of all their professors. Since that time, Omega professors have begun to assign higher grades in their classes, and overall student grade averages at Omega have risen by 30 percent. Potential employers, looking at this dramatic rise in grades, believe that grades at Omega are inflated and do not accurately reflect student achievement; as a result, Omega graduates have not been as successful at getting jobs as have graduates from nearby Alpha University. To enable its graduates to secure better jobs, Omega University should terminate student evaluation of professors.
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
In this passage, the author makes several assumptions but does not provide the appropriate evidence to back up his claims. To evaluate this argument, we would need several additional pieces of evidence.
First, we need evidence that professors have begun to assign higher grades in their classes as a direct result of the implementation of the system that allows students to evaluate the teaching effectiveness of all their professors. The author implies that professors started giving higher grades in order to receive a better evaluation from students. However, just because professors began giving higher grades right after the teacher evaluation system was implemented at the school does not mean that the latter caused the former – correlation is not the same as causation. One reason for the more lenient grades could be that recent cohorts are more intelligent or better students, as high schools in the state have implemented more rigorous educational programs and the incoming classes of students are, in general, better prepared for academic work in college. One way to get evidence of this would be to compare these students’ SAT and high school GPAs with those of earlier cohorts that were there before the increase in college GPAs and see if they tend to be significantly higher. Getting this evidence would point against the reasoning that higher grades are a direct result a new evaluation system and weaken this author’s argument.
Another reason for the more lenient grading system could be that a new study came out that said that students show increased performance and scholarship in schools that espouse more lenient grading systems. Having read this new research, the professors may have discussed it in a meeting and began to grade more leniently to see if this would help their students become better scholars. One type of evidence that can show whether professors began assigning higher grades is anonymous surveys asking professors to check off all the reasons that apply for their lenient grading in recent years – one of those options they can check off is the new evaluation system. Worded appropriately and in a non-threatening way, this answer may elicit some honest responses from the professors that would show whether this has played a role in their grading. However, it is likely that professors may not want to admit such a thing if indeed true, so it’s better to send an anonymous survey to any professors that are not currently at the school now but were after the time the system was implemented. If this group of professors indicated that the system has indeed influenced their grading, it would strengthen the argument this author makes.
The author also states that potential employers, looking at the dramatic rise in grades, believe that grades at Omega are inflated and do not accurately reflect student achievement; as a result, Omega graduates have not been as successful at getting jobs as have graduates from nearby Alpha University. Interviews with these employers who tend to hire graduates from Alpha University would help provide evidence to support or refute this argument – if interviewers explicitly said that this rise in grades in recent years is a red flag and they avoid hiring students from Omega University for this reason, then this evidence would strengthen the author’s argument. If, however, employers pointed to other reasons for preferring Alpha University students, that would weaken this author’s argument. There are many factors employers could point to for preferring Alpha students, including, for example, that Alpha University students are more well-rounded due to increased participation in extra-curricular and volunteer activities, or that they tend to be better team players because they were more involved in sports teams in college. In addition, Alpha University could have the best debate team in the state, producing graduates with better communication and critical thinking skills – two traits that these employers being interviewed may prize highly.
Finally, the author claims that to enable its graduates to secure better jobs, Omega University should terminate student evaluation of professors. However, terminating the program could have the opposite effect: Getting a real appraisal of their performance from students could be helping teachers be better at their job, and their boost in performance could be behind the boost in student GPAs. Before terminating the program, strong evidence would be needed against it. The best way to get this evidence would be to conduct an objective study on the analysis of the effects of the system, using some of the aforementioned instruments, including student, professor, and local employer surveys and interviews.
In conclusion, additional evidence may strengthen or weaken this argument — without it, we cannot be sure the conclusions the author draws are appropriate. It would be a disservice to all to end the teacher evaluation program without further investigation.