Friday, March 24, 2006


This morning I was listening to the latest Malcolm Gladwell talk in my collection, a November 2005 address to the Hamline University law school. About ten minutes into the presentation he talks about the student evaluation example out of the Blink book. The idea is that students make quick decisions about their professors at the first class meeting, and those impressions don't change much as the semester progresses.

I listened to it on my way to the annual Central California Regional Conference on Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The plenary talk was "Creating desirable difficulties for the learner" by Robert Bjork. Both Gladwell and Bjork talk about how our "common sense" is flawed about student evaluations of instruction. From Gladwell we have to question our assumption that more data is better (administering course evals later in the course don't change the outcome much), and from Bjork we saw if you use effective teaching techniques there's a good chance that students will give you lower evaluations than if you'd use less effective techniques.

Both are problems with introspection, and remind me of the infamous "unskilled and unaware" of social pyschology.