Student Evaluations of Instruction: When are Enduring First Impressions Formed?

Laws, Apperson, Buchert, and Bregman (2010) wrote an article in the North American Journal of Psychology on undergraduate students’ perceptions of their psychology professors in order to see if student evaluation scores on the professor and the class as a whole were determined at the outset of the class (day 1 and week 1 vs end of the semester evaluation scores).

They concluded that students form a perception about the professor on the first night of class that remains true through the end of the semester.

There are several issues with this article however.

To name just a few as examples:

In their method section, Laws et al. writes that they have 384 undergraduates from 14 psychology courses participating. With this information, they fail to go into greater depth. For example, are some of those undergraduates enrolled in multiple psychology courses and therefore the same person is filling out evaluations on the different psychology professors? Are the psychology professors teaching multiple courses? Also, the method section never discusses what time of day the class meets, how often the courses meet during a week and for how long the classes are (i.e. a class that meets at 10am three times a week for 50 minutes may be different from a class that meets at 6pm once a week for three hours, even though the information given is the same and taught by the same professor).

Also, this study doesn’t generalize to others, since it is only data from psychology courses and presumably at one university (as it’s never mentioned that the undergrads come from multiple universities). Therefore, the scores only apply to those psychology students at that university, since universities and even other colleges within a university could have different cultures and therefore score differently.

To top this all off, the authors state that their big conclusion is that students form perceptions of the professor that remain true through the end of the semester. In other words, students judge the prof on the first day of class and at the end of the semester score the professor in a very similar way. This issue with this is that they don’t account for professor consistency. That is, a professor on night one may teach the exact same way the during the whole semester and so since the teaching style is the same, the first night of class perception is the same as at the end of the semester.

A better study would be to see if a professor taught in a certain way on night 1 and if they changed their teaching style dramatically and then saw if the students still rated the professor the same way.

Swedish Parent’s Views on Sweden’s Food Temptations and their Effect on Parenting Young Children

‘Children are exposed to temptation all the time’– parents’ lifestyle-related discussions in focus groups was published in Acta Paediatrica (2012), Christina Stenhammar and myself (Michael Wells) headed up this peer reviewed journal article along with A. Åhman, B. Wettergren, B. Edlund, and our advisor, Anna Sarkadi. The article focuses on Swedish parents’ needs, obstacles, and solutions to providing their young children with a healthy lifestyle.

Aim:  To explore parents’ perspectives on providing their preschool child with a healthy lifestyle, including obstacles and resources.

Methods:  Five semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted, with 30 parents of 4-year-olds in Sweden. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Systematic Text Condensation.

Results:  Four themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: Lifestyle –‘The way you live is parents’ responsibility’, Challenges to promote children’s healthy lifestyle, Support from professionals, and peers might facilitate, and Request for an overall responsibility from society. Parents felt that they were role models for their child’s lifestyle, a concept including many factors. Attractive and tempting sedentary activities and unhealthy foods were perceived as obstacles, and parents were frustrated by the media’s contradictory lifestyle messages. Child health services were expected to more actively invite parents to discuss their child’s lifestyle issues. Parents desired some collective responsibility for children’s lifestyles through agencies, services and media messages that support and promote healthy choices.

Conclusion:  Parents struggled to give their children a healthy lifestyle and the ‘temptations’ of daily unhealthy choices were causing hassles and conflicts. Parents desired professional support from preschools, Child Health Centers and a collective responsibility from society to create uniform guidelines about healthy eating and exercise. Parents groups were mentioned as peer support.

Literature Review on Parental Leave in Sweden and Their Child Health Centers

‘Do Father-Friendly Policies Promote Father-Friendly Child-Rearing Practices? A Review of Swedish Parental Leave and Child Health Centers’ was published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies (2012). We reviewed the literature on how parental leave policies in Sweden have influenced two well-defined areas of early father involvement: participating in parental leave and at visits/activities at the Child Health Centers.

Sweden has one of the most comprehensive and egalitarian parental leave policies in the world, permitting parents to take 480 days off of work, receive 80% of their pay for the first 15 months, and divide their leave however they see fit, barring that both parents receive 2 months of parental leave that is exclusive to them. Additionally, fathers are permitted to take the first ten working days off to be at home with his family.

Most parents, especially mothers, use parental leave throughout their infant’s first year. During the parents’ time off from work, nearly all Swedish parents (95–99%) utilize the Child Health Centers between 11 and 13 times during the infant’s first year of life. The Child Health Centers help to monitor a child’s growth and development, provide parenting support, immunizations, health education, health screenings, and provide referral sources if the child has any special needs. However, fathers only use 22% of all parental leave days.

Studies have pointed out that fathers may not use parental leave because of corporate, maternal, and financial attitudes. Despite the Child Health Centers’ policy of including both parents, fathers do not utilize the Child Health Centers to the same extent as mothers, because they are mainly only open during normal working hours, they are dominated by females (staff and mothers), and many conversations during the child’s first year are directed towards mothers (i.e. breastfeeding).

Swedish fathers have barriers to utilizing parental leave and have barriers at the Child Health Centers; therefore, fathers may not learn about their child’s health (i.e. growth and development) during the most formative years. This empowers mothers, since they are learning about their child’s health, and therefore become the child’s health expert and have formed relationships with the Swedish child health nurses. This may discourage fathers from taking an active role in their child’s health care; thus barriers need to be removed so that fathers can participate more in their young child’s health, if the Swedish health care system is to be more egalitarian.

Swedish Child Health Centers: Semiotic Visual Analysis of Clinical Environments

It’s amazing what you can find out about yourself by searching your name on the internet. I recently came across a presentation that was posted on the Academic Hospital’s (Akademiska Sjukhuset) website in Uppsala, Sweden.

This presentation shows the data on a semiotic visual analysis of clinical environments (Swedish Child Health Centers).

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Implementation Guide: Hamre, Goffin, Kraft-Sayre

Hamre, Goffin, Kraft-Sayre created a nice slideshow of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Implementation Guide. An overview from the index points out that this slide show goes over topics such as: investing in effective teacher-child interactions, the classroom assessment scoring system: an overview, improving teacher-child interactions, evaluation and monitoring, and professional development.

For other blogs on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): click here to read a synopsis on CLASS and other early childhood assessment tools, click here to see the breakdown of the CLASS content (the domains and dimensions), click here to read more about Dr Hamre’s work regarding CLASS and academic achievement, or click here to find research that has been published using CLASS as an assessment tool.

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): Interventions for Academic Achievement

Bridget K. Hamre ( at the University of Virginia presented at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Conference a PowerPoint that lays out what the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) can do: namely, assess the classroom quality, while pairing that up with academic achievement for adolescents in high school. She has also given an interview with ScienceWatch on her thoughts on CLASS and on early childhood social science research in general.

Hamre’s PowerPoint provides a lot of nice background information on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) including topics like CLASS’ scope and alignment, what is CLASS?, CLASS versions, What does CLASS measure?, What are the domains and dimensions of CLASS?, Standardizing CLASS, CLASS Training, Reliability and Validity of CLASS, data on CLASS, alignment with professional development, and an academic intervention using CLASS-S.

For other blogs on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): click here to read a synopsis on CLASS and other early childhood assessment tools, click here to see the breakdown of the CLASS content (the domains and dimensions), click here to read about CLASS and how to implement it, or click here to find research that has been published using CLASS as an assessment tool.

Swedish Child Health Nurses: Their Effect on Paternal Involvement

In 2009, I attended the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) Conference where I presented my findings on qualitative interviews I completed on Swedish Child Health Nurses. Dr Anna Sarkadi of Uppsala University in the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health in Social Pediatrics in Sweden advised and analyzed the data with me.

Click Here to see the poster that was presented at the conference for a full understanding of the data collection and analysis.

In Sweden, about 98% of all families visit the Child Health Centers, where children between 0 – 6 years old go to receive routine growth and development check-ups and vaccinations. Parents also attend to receive parenting advise, participate in parent support groups, and to have their child tested for any developmental delays.

Although there has been much research completed on the effectiveness of the Swedish child health centers, little research has focused on the Child Health Nurses perceptions of their jobs, especially in relation to involving fathers (since historically only mothers came to the child health centers).

17 Child Health Nurses from all over Sweden were interviewed and the interviews were qualitatively analyzed for themes and categories.

Despite Sweden’s egalitarian public policies regarding parental leave, Child Health Nurses mainly expressed traditional views on the fathers’ roles in parenting, viewing the mother as the primary caretaker and the father as an often engaged and skilled, but still, a supporting parent. Swedish Child Health Nurses also realized that the Child Health Centers might not be so explicitly father-friendly, but they saw no role of their own in actively encouraging fathers’ participation. Child Health Nurses were also clearly unaware of the major impact their views and practices might have on father involvement: they wanted to leave those choices up to the parents.

Social Networking at Work

Many adults like to jump on social networking sites while at work. However, some companies have strict rules against logging in to social networking sites like Facebook, even when employees are on break or lunch.

DiMicco et al. (2008) conducted a study of people using social networking sites while at work. They found that the workers actually used the sites to communicate and maintain relationships on a personal level with their co-workers, especially with those whom they had weak relationships with. Workers also used the sites to promote their different work-related projects.

Perhaps it’s not always a bad idea to limit people’s social networking–after all, having strong relationships with coworkers helps to retain employees.

Longitudinal Relations Between Father Involvement and Children’s Cognitive Development and Academic Achievement Across the Transition to School

In 2008, at the Human Development Conference I presented the findings from my master’s thesis that I completed in conjunction with my advisor, Dr Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan. Dr Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan is an Associate Professor at The Ohio State University in the Department of Human Development and Family Science, which is in the College of Education.

I used data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD). 

Click Here to see the findings and the poster.

With this second hand data, I analyzed mother’s and father’s parenting during a play session when their child was in preschool (54 months) and the child’s academic and cognitive outcomes when the child reached first grade.

Using a structural equation model (SEM), I found that even after controlling for mothers’ parenting and parental education, fathers’ parenting has a significant and independent effect on children’s cognitive development (p < .01) and there is also a trend with respect to children’s academic achievement (p < .057).

Head Start Data Collection: Writing Anecdotals

Collecting data on the child’s growth and development is important. It’s required by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), for accreditation purposes, for individualization, and for the performance of the (Head Start) program.

At the 2010 National Head Start Association Conference, Kathy Freismuth and I presented on data collection and focused specifically on writing anecdotals. See the attached PowerPoint for more details on writing quality anecdotals and forms that could be used to better inform employees about writing quality anecdotals.

There are lots of different forms of documentation:

  • Portfolios
  • Growth and Development Books
  • Journals
  • Checklists
  • Running Records
  • Tallies
  • Photographs
  • Audio/Video
  • Rating Scales
  • Matrices
  • Work Samples
  • Written Anecdotals

Objectivity is crucial when writing anecdotals. Writing exactly what that child does–describing only the behavior. Ask the child open-ended questions to better understand what they are working on and so they can explain in their own words.

A Good Observation involves the following:

  • Objective/Factual Language
  • Write only what you see/hear
  • Complete at “point of service”–when the activity happens
  • Observe a skill over a period of time–this is important to see the growth and development of the child
  • Observe the child in different settings–this is important because if you always watch the child completing one activity, you will only know how they perform at that activity (i.e. all anecdotals written at block area tells you little about how the child draws/paints/socializes/eats/plays/etc).