The Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness results are just in. Students are asked to rate a variety of things on a scale of 1-7. It is hard not to fixate on these numbers, despite their shortcomings. And their shortcomings are many. The scores almost certainly reflect something, but is it teaching effectiveness? The scores can't be used to compare courses, not least because audiences differ (most of my students aren't there by choice), or to compare teachers (popular teachers are not necessarily effective teachers). But the scores are good for identifying under-performing teachers (usually scores <4), and for comparing the same teacher across years.
Evidently I am getting worse.
The shape of the curves fit with my general experience of university teaching. The second year of a new course is the best. You've ironed out the kinks, but the material is still fresh and exciting to teach. It is hard not to lose the edge once things become routine.
But looking more closely at these numbers, I can't help but wonder if something else is going on. One of the questions asked is 'Rate the clarity of the syllabus in stating course objectives, course outline and criteria for grades'. The syllabus is the document which should lay out everything about the course. I have not changed mine over the four years. Moreover, I have never had a single complaint about it. Yet the students rate it as less and less clear through time (black dotted line). Is it possible students are getting more ornery?