Should students be allowed to give good teachers a bonus?post by AllAmericanBreakfast · 2020-11-02T00:19:54.578Z · LW · GW · 28 comments
Alice is a STEM student taking general chemistry, linear algebra, and intro to computer programming. At the end of her term, the school emails her an online form with a link to her Student-Allocated Bonus.
For taking three classes, Alice gets 3 points. She can divide them up however she wants between her teachers from this quarter. Her favorite teacher was Prof. Bruin, her math teacher. Her least favorite teacher was Prof. Cameron, her computer programming teacher. Prof. Dorry, her chemistry teacher, was all right. She gives Prof. Bruin 2 points, Prof. Dorry 1 point, and Prof. Cameron 0 points.
Jack is her classmate, but he forgets to fill out the SAB form. The system divides his points equally, 1 per teacher.
Once the due date for submission has passed, the system totals up the points that students have allocated to each teacher. Each teacher gets $5 per point. It's a modest but not insignificant bonus. Prof. Bruin's 30 students award him 50 points, so he earns $250 extra. At the local college, teachers make about $3,000 per class, so that's an 8% bump in his earnings.
People were worried at first that this was basically the same thing as students bribing their teacher. What if Jack promises his math teacher that he'll give him all his points on the SAB in exchange for "going easy on his grading?"
The beauty of the anonymized points system is that it makes this impossible to verify. Which student gave which points to what teacher is anonymous. Since points can only be given in integers, students can't do any shenanigans like giving their teacher some weird decimal point number of points (2.6893 points) so that their teacher will see the decimal number and know who the money was from. And the SAB is assigned after all grades are due at the end of the quarter.
The SAB is a modest portion of the teacher's total salary. It's not a club that students can hold over a teacher's head. $5 is not a meaningful bribe. It's just one small but non-zero part of the incentive structure.
But it has some very attractive advantages.
Students are the consumers of the product schools are selling. They have at the very least an important role in evaluating its quality. Currently, they can only express their opinion before trying out a teacher's offering, by choosing whether or not to pay tuition for the class. Wouldn't it be better if at least some small fraction of their money was allocated after the class, when they have an informed opinion?
EDIT: Following discussion in the comments, I want to revise this. Students are indeed the consumers of the teaching and equipment that schools are selling, and they are the producers of the credentials/learning employers are consuming. We can treat this as a sector of the economy that takes students and educational services as inputs, and outputs professionals to a variety of other sectors.
Students are also transient. If their only option for evaluating teachers is to grade them or give written feedback at the end of the quarter, it's on an administrator to decide whether and how to discipline teachers who get bad reviews and reward those who get good ones. They don't know exactly what the students meant in their feedback forms. Egos and relationships are on the line. Inertia sets in. This way, there's a little bit of a carrot that administrators can offer to good teachers, without having to take responsibility for deciding who the good teachers are.
Finally, this system gives students a small but meaningful sense of responsibility for their school. When they fill out the SAB, they're not going to alter their own outcomes. They already took the class. What they're doing is helping steer the school in a better direction for the next class of students. This promotes a sense of stewardship.
Teachers might be afraid that they're being given a pay cut that they have to "placate students" to get back. This fear could be alleviated by adding a $5 fee per class. Present teacher pay is unchanged. The SAB is truly a bonus - a pure increase in pay - for teachers who earn it.
I'd appreciate any feedback on ways this system could fail, and also ideas on the practical challenges administrators might face in implementing it. If similar systems already exist, please let me know examples.
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