Sometimes I feel like Angela from NBC's The Office. I like to be evaluated. Fans of the show will remember her excitement when Michael Scott would call her in for the annual "performance review." But what I've never understood is that student evaluations are completed after the semester, and while they can benefit future classes, they do not allow the professor to alter her or his teaching for that batch of particular student.
So on Monday, as I was handing back their first essays, I had them evaluate me. They simply answered this question: "given the confines of this class (book, current assignments, quizzes), what could Professor Blum do differently to improve this class for you?"
The responses were helpful, especially because they were consistent. Below, I list the points and offer a few bits of reflection.
- More information on powerpoints
- (the balance between too few and too many points on a powerpoint is a good one; clearly I have gone too minimalist and will adjust; another problem I encounter is when a teacher reads directly from the powerpoint, which I disdain ... I know how to read for myself. I also get frustrated when presenters fail to explain or analyze the image on the powerpoint)
- Quizzes are getting harder and not knowing when they are is nerve-wracking
- (the quizzes have gotten more difficult and that was by design; I wanted to walk students into the pool easily; I should have told them more clearly at the beginning that they would get harder; also, I see how it's nerve-wracking to not know when quizzes are so from now on, I'll announce on the blog when they will be and maybe even which cohorts will be quizzed; today, no quiz).
- Professor Blum is such a nice dresser; Mrs. Blum must pick out his outfits
- Why does the class have a grader? Shouldn't our professor grade our essays?
- (this is a great question and I never explained to the class why we have a grader; I explained that we had one, who he was, what he would do, and how you could challenge his grades, but I never explained WHY there was a grader. I think this speaks to my students not encountering very many graders at SDSU and their uncertainty about what a professor (and not just a teacher) necessarily does. I'll go through this with them, but I'm not sure of the solution; I'm certainly not grading 170 essays every couple of weeks)
- Too much on the primary documents; too little on the primary documents
- (this was the one area where I got critical feedback that contradicted itself and it reminds me that students have a variety of likes and dislikes and, at the end of the day, we have to be ourselves and prioritize as we prioritize)