Bright Futures Educational Consulting Up and Running

Hello all — I’ve started a new venture, Bright Futures Educational Consulting. It provides consulting services for high school students who are thinking about college, students already in college thinking about transferring or about graduate school, and for colleges and universities. We help with all aspects of the college application process, including choosing a major, choosing a college or university, avoiding debt, writing a good application essay, asking for recommendation letters, applying for financial aid, and more. If you’re a high school student, or a parent of a high school student, think about these consulting services as guidance counseling on steroids.

The nature of our service is such that we can provide consulting services literally anywhere in the world. If you’d like more information, visit our website or email us at home@brightfuturesedconsulting.com.

I’m currently looking for three or four families willing to do test runs on my services. The first four people to contact me can receive my services for free in exchange for honest feedback on a ten question customer service survey.

Dr. James Rovira has seventeen years’ experience in higher education in a variety of capacities, including admissions, financial aid, student advising, administration, course and curriculum design, publishing, and teaching. I know higher ed inside and out, and I am here to be your guide and advocate.

Charismatic Teacher = High Evals, but not High Learning

EvaluationsInside Higher Ed. has recently reported that a rather interesting study on student learning conducted by a group of psychologists supports what most of us who have been teaching for any length of time already knew all along: student perception of learning and student learning are two different things:

The researchers asked two groups of students to sit through the same lecture delivered in radically different styles. When asked afterward how much they felt they had learned, those who had experienced the more accomplished performance believed they had learned more than the second group. However, when tested, there was little difference found between them, with those attending the “better” lecture barely outperforming their poorly taught peers.

So students think they’ve learned more when they’re taught by more charismatic instructors, but when tested, they really haven’t. They learn about the same as those taught by instructors with poor self-presentation skills. I would always encourage faculty to strengthen their presentation skills, of course, just to make the learning experience more enjoyable, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves about how much this really means in terms of student learning.

The implications here are twofold:

1. Student course evaluations by themselves are no measure of teacher effectiveness, but we already knew that.

2. The hottest new thing — MOOCs — used by themselves reinforce ineffective educational practices:

Mazur said that despite modern technological advances, universities had work to do to redesign their lecture halls and rethink their teaching methods. “What is really worrying is that people are jumping on the massive open online course bandwagon, taking a failed model and putting it online. We need to rethink how people approach teaching,” he said.

I don’t see much difference between a MOOC and a 400 seat lecture class, but there’s a lot of difference between a MOOC and a smaller class involving direct student/faculty interaction that is  heavy on instructor feedback, as the latter actually involves teaching and not just lecturing.

Now, let me share something even worse: high student course evaluations are negatively correlated with deep, long-term learning. In other words, when teachers engage in practices that help students retain what they’ve learned, they’re punished for it with low student evaluations according to this study:

Student evaluations are positively correlated with contemporaneous professor value-added and negatively correlated with follow-on student achievement. That is, students appear to reward higher grades in the introductory course but punish professors who increase deep learning (introductory course professor value-added in follow-on courses).

If you’re interested in the original report behind the IHE article, I’ve provided it below:

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