Eventually, I can see myself giving the job market another go. But next time, I want to submit job applications with evaluations of my teaching that contain answers from students that search committee members might actually find illuminating, given all the well-known problems with student evals (e.g. unreliability, biased, etc.). There have to be questions that search committee members would prefer to see answered over those questions found on a typical university-approved teaching eval, such as "How would you rate this teacher's effectiveness overall?" or "Did this teacher arrive to class on time?". So, my question for Cocooners, is what are they? Imagine you're on a search committee. What kind of feedback would you like to see from an applicant's students?
While another commenter ('With a Job') wrote (in somewhat more colorful language) that people could care less about student evals when trying to move around after your first TT job, I'm not sure this is true if one is looking to move from one teaching-focused institution to another, which Eugene confirmed he is indeed considering for reasons relating to geographical location. Although I know people who are skeptical of student evaluations in general (for what seem like good reasons), I know others who do care. As to Eugene's follow-up question, "I suppose it would be interesting to hear, then, why people think that matter at _any_ job stage. Why is there is so much emphasis placed on them when we apply for our first jobs?", I don't think it takes too much imagination to speculate on some purely pragmatic reasons for institutions to care about them.
In any case, Eugene's query raises several questions I suspect readers might be interested in hearing answers to, among them:
- Which types of student-evaluation items do search-committee members care about? Why?
- What kinds of alternative questions might be formulated that committee members might find insightful? Why?
At least offhand, I'd be willing to guess that search committee members at teaching institutions might care about items and comments relating to course/assignment difficulty, innovation, and commitment to students.
Why do I say this? Well, I suspect difficulty may matter to people in part because people I know think it's important pedagogically to hold students to high standards, but also because it is known that students reward good grades with good evaluations. If an instructor's students rate them as super-difficult and otherwise rate them highly as an instructor, that might indicate to a search committee not only that the candidate has integrity as a teacher (viz. not buying into the 'disengagement compact'), but also that their pedagogy is good and appreciated by students (provided of course the result of the material in the candidate's teaching portfolio suggests they are a good teacher). On that note, I also wonder whether including grade-distributions might be helpful, as a means of showing search committees that one receives good evals without engaging in grade-inflation). The other two types of items (innovation and commitment to students, however they are formulated) seem like they might matter, as I know lots of people who value teachers who evolve, experiment with new things, and go above and beyond for their students.
But this is just me speculating. What do you all think? How would you answer questions (1) and (2) above?