Ed Professors Score A Harvard First By Answering Their Student Critics
For the first time in anybody's memory, a large number of Harvard professors have publicly answered students' criticisms of their courses.
The replies, and the criticisms, are in a 112-page booklet published by a group of students at the School of Education last week.
The booklet evaluates 48 Ed School courses in a manner much like the Confi Guide. It is based on Confi-Guide-like questionnaires which Ed School students filled out last spring.
But, unlike Confi Guide write-ups, which professors don't see until the Guides hit the stands, these write-ups were sent to professors in advance of publication, with requests for comments. And, in nearly three out of four cases, the professors replied.
Their response ranged in length from two sentences to four pages.
They ranged in tone from very apologetic to very angry.
"I did not even on my darkest days imagine that a quarter of the students and possibly many more were so negative toward my lectures that they learned nothing from them," wrote Dean K. Whitla, director of the Office of Tests and lecturer on Education.
"As lecturers go, a number were poor--loosely organized, rambling and at times presuming backgrounds that the students did not have. To be truthful, I though a few of them were quite well done."
He added that his course, on psychological testing, is being substantially revised.
Ed School Dean Theodore R. Sizer summed up his course on British and American education since 1870 as "too much material too condensed taught to too many students."
On the other hand, a professor who taught the course with Sizer, though he admitted it needed revising, accused many of the critics of "looking for an easy way to their degree."
Several professors defended their way of doing things, despite the criticism in the write-ups.
And some, like Maurice Belanger, assistant professor of education, attacked the write-ups. "I see no hope for a significant dialogue based on cult, gush, and gossip," Belanger wrote. Strangely enough, his write-up was the most flattering in the booklet.
Saul Yanofsky, one of three doctoral candidates who planned and edited the booklet, agreed last night that the write-ups weren't as good as they could be.
"We had a low response rate from students to begin with," he said. "We weren't pleased with much of what we had to say. There wasn't that much that the professors could profit by."
They want to correct that this year, Yanofsky said, possibly by getting permission to have students fill out the questionnaires in class.
They also want to explore further some of their own conclusions. The most important is that lecture classes at the Ed School don't work either for students or for teachers, and ought to be dispensed with. They have not, however, suggested a substitute.