Monday, June 14, 2010

14 June 2010: NBA thoughts and College Student Evaluations

NBA thoughts So the Celtics have a 3-2 lead going into Los Angeles for one or two games.

Frankly: the Lakers are good enough to pull it out, period. Nevertheless, I'd say that the Celtics, for now, have a slight edge.

I have two comments:

Phil Jackson made some interesting remarks in the huddle toward the end of the game. The Celtics had a 12 point lead with 2:55 left in the game and the Lakers had cut it to 5:

""This team has lost more games in the fourth quarter than anybody in the NBA. They know how to lose in the fourth quarter, all right? They're just showing us that right now."

You can see the video here (before youtube nukes it...)

Yes, the Celtics hung on to win.

Now, of course, coach Jackson was technically the regular season that was true. But why?
With a month left in the regular season, Doc Rivers gathered Paul Pierce(notes), Kevin Garnett(notes) and Ray Allen(notes) in his office to tell them how they would be champions again. They were so far away, so uncertain the possibility remained plausible. The longer the season had gone with worn legs, beat-up bodies and bad losses, the clearer the truth had become for Rivers. They would stop angling for playoff seeding and home court, stop treating the regular season with urgency.

Doc Rivers has guided the Celtics to the NBA Finals in two of the past three seasons.
(NBAE/ Getty Images)

“Listen, we’re going to practice harder, you’re going to play less and there’s going to be a minute restriction,” Rivers told them. Garnett’s and Pierce’s faces grew long, and Rivers punctuated his declaration with the obvious: “And I know you’re not going to like this, but the only way you’re going to win is healthy.”
“I thought it was the right plan, but it didn’t look right because we were losing,” Rivers said. “But guys were resting and conditioning, and I thought that was the only chance we had.”

So, Rivers would watch Garnett seethe on the bench and wonder whether they would ever get through this and into the clear. “Kevin doesn’t have a shut-down button,” Rivers said. They took him out of games, lost leads and Garnett would deliver that icy glare that demanded Rivers return him to the floor. It felt like the season was slipping away in March and April, but it turned out that it was just getting started.

As Garnett and Pierce glared into space, Rivers would hear his assistant Tom Thibodeau and trainer Ed Lacerte bark out the minutes they had played, and Rivers refused to let his thirtysomething stars exhaust their prescribed limits. As a former player with a winning pedigree, Rivers combines the best of X’s-and-O’s acumen with a true understanding of the player’s plight. He’s publicly supportive and privately harsh. He never gets personal with his criticism and never embarrasses them. He treats them with respect, but never reverence.

Bottom line: Coach Doc Rivers kept the long term goal in mind. I remember the days (Bird-Mchale-Parish-D. Johnson-Ainge) in which the Celtics would play their starters hard during the regular season, get homecourt advantage and then run out of gas (1987: Lakers, 1988: lost to the Pistons).

That didn't happen this time, though, again, I am NOT conceding the title to the Celtics. Mr. Bryant, Mr. Gasol and Mr. Fisher have a good deal to say about that.

But in any event, Doc Rivers has done an outstanding coaching job.

My guess: 7 games, with game 7 being a toss-up.


Here is an interesting article about student teaching evaluations (college level; hat tip: Edge of the American West):
College administrators tend to rely on student evaluations. If students say a professor is doing a good job, perhaps that's enough.

Or maybe not. A new study reaches the opposite conclusion: professors who rate highly among students tend to teach students less. Professors who teach students more tend to get bad ratings from their students -- who, presumably, would just as soon get high grades for minimal effort.

The study finds that professor rank, experience and stature are far more predictive of how much their students will learn. But those professors generally get bad ratings from students, who are effectively punishing their professors for attempting to push them toward deeper learning.

The study is called "Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors." It was written by Scott E. Carrell of the University of California, Davis and National Bureau of Economic Research; and James E. West of the U.S. Air Force Academy

It uses as a laboratory the Air Force Academy, where students are randomly assigned to courses such as Calculus, each taught using an identical syllabus. All students are required to take specific follow-up courses. So, the researchers were able to study how each professor fared in producing results for his or her students, and how the same students did the next semester, and so on.

The findings are, to say the least, counterintuitive. Professors rated highly by their students tended to yield better results for students in their own classes, but the same students did worse in subsequent classes. The implication: highly rated professors actually taught students less, on average, than less popular profs.

Meanwhile, professors with higher academic rank, teaching experience and educational experience -- what you might call "input measures" for performance -- showed the reverse trend. Their students tended to do worse in that professor's course, but better in subsequent courses. Presumably, they were learning more.

That conclusion invites another: students are, in essence, rewarding professors who award higher grades by giving them high ratings, and punishing professors who attempt to teach material in more depth by rating them poorly.

Of course, two caveats: this study does have a randomized feature and the entrance requirements for a service academy are stringent.

At other types of universities there is a bigger spread in the quality of student; at such places the popular professors often attract weaker students and of course, these students don't do well in subsequent courses.

But yes, this reveals the flaws of using student evaluations; not that this will matter to the administration.

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