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Late Spring To-Do List

  • Read scholarly book #1
  • Read scholarly book #2
  • Catch up on professional journals
  • Administer evaluations
  • Grade seminar research papers
  • Write two final exams
  • Grade final exams
  • Compute final grades
  • Order books for fall
  • Find apartment in New City
  • Attend INRU Commencement!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Evaluations: post-script

A few other random things from my evaluations:

1. My students appear to like group work--quite a few of them mentioned it, and they all had positive things to say about it. My INRU students hated group work, and I pretty much hated group work when I was in college too--but then again, the classes I teach have 30 students, not 15, so maybe that accounts for the difference.

2. Big Urban's form has one write-in question that deals specifically with the instructor's sensitivity toward the diversity of the students (race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability). Many of my students just didn't answer this question, or said, "fine," but several wrote in pretty funny responses, along the lines of, "Hey, she wasn't a racist! That was neat!"

3. A small but noticeable handful of students in one--but only one--of my survey classes commented negatively on the religious content of the course. Now, most of you know what survey I teach, which means that you know that 80% of the major works written during this period have SOME religious content. So, um, I can't really "include more secular stuff," or "can the religious crap," as one evaluator so eloquently put it. But a couple of students made remarks along the lines of, "instructor seemed to expect a thorough knowledge of the Old and New Testament," or, "discussion was dominated by religiously-educated people." I don't think either of these remarks is remotely true--it's useful to have some students in the room who know the major biblical stories, and can spot an allusion when they see it, but the number of times that I asked whether a particular story rang any bells was quite small--but I wonder if I should be more up-front this semester in saying, "look, these are religious works, and we have to have some understanding of the context of these works, but a religious background is not a prerequisite to understanding them. I value the insights that those of you who are members of a particular faith might be able to bring to them, but I also want to point out that the religious culture of these periods was, in fact, usually EXTREMELY different from both contemporary Protestantism and contemporary Catholicism. We need to accept it on its own terms, and both those of you who are secularists and those of you who are religious have useful perspectives to offer." Or am I just fretting about nothing?

4. A large number of students mentioned how excited I was about the material and how funny and fun my "lectures" were (I rarely lecture, but I guess that's what they call my talking about something for five minutes in the midst of a class discussion). This pleases me extremely.

5. Returning to the issue of paper-grading: when I went back and looked at the evaluations carefully, there were actually only a couple of students who used the terms "condescending" or "unprofessional," though there were certainly others who said that they wanted more praise or that they felt demoralized reading my comments. So I think I'll definitely work on incorporating more positive comments in my grading, but I may mostly ignore any worries about colloquialisms and the like.

6. Four or five students described my expectations for papers as "graduate-level work." Duuude. Now that shit's funny.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:15 PM |


Blogger Stellaluna commented at 5:01 PM~  

I really enjoyed reading your responses to your own student evaluations! I was just thinking about the groupwork issue--I get the exact same sort of feedback on my evals. Some really like working in groups, some really hate working in groups. In classes of 25 or so, however, that last 90 minutes, it seems as if some group work is helpful in working with material. What kinds of group exercises have you found to be most helpful? Do you have established groups or do you do more impromptu numbering off?

Also, how does your department and institution read your evals? What kinds of things are they reading for? What do they view as red flags and as positive?

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 7:44 PM~  



I generally use group work when I want my students to do close textual work, and especially on longer and denser passages. For example, I'll have my students get into groups to work through six or seven different poems by a single author, or importantly related passages from the same work. Their task is to figure out a) what it's saying, and b) what's interesting about it--often I have some specific thing I'm looking for, like what the author's attitude toward a given issue or a character seems to be, or how many poetic devices, image patterns, whatever, they can come up with.

After they've worked like this for 30 minutes or however long, we regroup and each groups presents its findings to the rest of the class. Sometimes I'll divide the room in half, have each side take one polarized position on a given issue, and then assign them to work in pairs on each side to find evidence for that position in the text. Then we regroup and each side (not each pair--that's just a practical arrangement) argues their case.

As for the evals--I have no idea. For reappointment I have to submite my evals, but I don't get the impression that they do more than a cursory review. You'd have to ask my chair!

Blogger sp commented at 2:16 PM~  

Hi, I know I'm weighing in late on this topic (been a little busy this week and haven't kept up on reading blogs) but I wanted to add that my university uses the scantron forms and I dislike them.

I use an additional assessment form whenever possible. I realize this is risky because most students don't like filling out evaluations, but I get much better feedback from the more open ended questions. I often have students fill out this evaulation a little more than halfway through a course, to get a sense of how things are going.

The form I use is part of an online service called FAST. It's free and easy to use. You might like it if you want to find out more about a particular thing you are doing in class or if you just hate scantrons!

(I'm not sure, but they might also be able to be submitted to the committe for promotional type considerations, it just depends on the department I suppose)

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