Archive for May, 2013

After every semester, when I’ve recovered from grading, I get to experience the joy of getting my student evaluations back. (See previous posts on evaluations here and here.) Other than students who complain about having to write papers or complete readings or take exams, one thing that has always bothered me about evaluations is the fact that one or two students will inevitably give me a less-than-perfect score on something like “arrives to class on time” or “returns graded assignments within a cycle of the moon.” This bothers me because I always arrive to class on time and return graded assignments within a cycle of the moon, so any student who thinks I do not is either lying or not paying attention.

This semester I had students in one of my courses complete a group project and, when the project was complete, evaluate their group members, which gave me some insight into these frustrating experiences. When looking over student a few students’ evaluations of their group members, I noticed that they assigned their group members a 4/5 on measures like “completed his or her share of the work” and “contributed ideas to the group.” The interesting thing was not the 4/5 (some students rated their group members much lower than this – after all, nobody wants to deal with students!) – but that some students assigned 4/5 in these categories to both their group members and themselves. Apparently, nobody in these groups completed their full share of the work or contributed ideas to the group. It seems like I would have realized this based on other situations, but I guess that it is true for evaluations as well – some students will never be satisfied, even with themselves.

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Keep Calm

In the past few weeks, there have been two relatively high-profile attacks on sociology (recognizing, of course, that anything reaching beyond the walls of sociology departments is relatively high-profile). In the first, N+1 published an article claiming that there is “too much sociology” because everybody already sees the world sociologically. In the second, Justin Trudeau’s argued that it is necessary to examine the root causes of problems like terrorism, prompting Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister, to state, “This is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression [that I just made up].”

Beyond potentially causing the ASA to shut down its website, I see these attacks as a positive sign for sociology. In my experience, lots of sociologists wish that policymakers would pay more attention to our ideas while lots of people in the general public have no idea what sociology is. (Admit it, half of your family members have jokingly requested that you don’t psychoanalyze them.) The fact that some, even some in positions of power, are criticizing sociological ideas means that they are at least vaguely familiar with sociological ideas. That seems like progress to me.

*The buttons in the picture above are available for sale at this website. According to their creator, all proceeds will be donated to the Canadian Sociological Association’s student research award. I have already ordered one, adding to my growing collection of sociological buttons.

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