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A University Overhauled Its Course Evaluation to Get Better Feedback.
Here’s What Changed.

Until recently, the University of Southern California took a conventional approach to student course evaluations. At the end of the semester, students answered about a dozen questions, including ones asking them to rate the instructor and the course. Their feedback was used as the primary — or in some cases, sole — evidence of professors’ teaching effectiveness in formal performance reviews, including those to determine tenure and promotion.
For years, professors at USC had expressed concerns about how their course evaluations were designed and used, echoing similar worries across the country. Research has found that course evaluations are a poor measure of learning, prone to bias, and often interpreted in ways that make little statistical sense.
The research — particularly the evidence on gender bias — persuaded the university’s provost, Michael W. Quick, to end the use of course evaluations as a direct measure of teaching effectiveness this past spring. Students are still providing feedback, but now they’re using a new tool that asks them to weigh in on the learning experience more than on the instructor. Their feedback will be used differently, too. It will no longer serve as the main mechanism for evaluating teaching. Instead, it will help individual instructors improve, and help their schools observe larger patterns.Click here to read more.

Announcement of Niki Bayat as one of MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35

The MIT Technology Review announced the 2018 TR35 list, which is its list of technology innovators under the age of 35. We are thrilled to share the news that our own Niki Bayat, who has just graduated with her PhD in Chemical Engineering, is in this prestigious list. To the best of my knowledge, Niki is the first USC PhD student having earned this distinction. Together with our previous USC Viterbi faculty winners, this makes for 13 such distinctions for USC Viterbi in the last 9 years, of whom nine are women engineers. I am sure that you all share my pride in this tremendous accomplishment from our faculty and students.
Niki received her PhD in Chemical Engineering in May 2018 under the supervision of Professor Mark Thompson, and with the collaboration of Professor Mark Humayun. She joined USC in 2011 and obtained her MS in Chemical Engineering in 2014, under the supervision of Professor Theodore Tsotsis. Niki holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, where she enrolled as the top student in her entering class. During the course of her PhD, she developed ground-breaking biomedical devices, including an injectable hydrogel for sealing open globe eye injuries, a reversible thermo-responsive adhesive patch for sealing injuries, and smart hydrogels that provide a unique platform for drug delivery, with her research featured on the cover of the Science Translational Medicine. Her inventions address an ongoing need to develop simple, affordable and efficient medical technologies for traumatic eye injuries and related vision dysfunction suffered by military personnel and veterans, among others. Together with a team of scientists and ophthalmologists, she is in the process of commercializing another one of her inventions through AesculaTech, Inc., a company she has co-founded. This work is particularly effective for glaucoma and dry eye patients who have daily requirements for administering eye drops. Click here to read more.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Provost’s Mentoring Award, presented annually at the Academic Honors Convocation, honors faculty members whose investment in and generosity toward the academic and professional success of other USC faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, or undergraduate students demonstrate exemplary mentoring. All nomination materials should be submitted by Friday, October 19, 2018.


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