Thursday, November 29, 2007

Those Old Evals

Not just postdoc proposals, but also job applications, have to get put together in the next few weeks. College Art Association has been listing a gratifying number of possibilities in my general field, and my advisor (who seldom recommends my doing less of anything, other than my dissertation itself) has counseled that I go wild and apply to many.
This means putting together a packet unlike anything I have ever compiled before, which is interesting in its own strange way. Many schools request a Teaching Statement (aka Teaching Philosophy), so I have been slaving over that.
A few schools even want to see, right up front, how my students have evaluated me. This led me, during a break from the Teaching Philosophy, to dig up my most recent set, which arrived when I was packing to move to Prague and therefore had never even been read. Since I had had a pretty good group that semester, I was optimistic, although I was well aware that one's best students have a way of staying home on evaluation day while one's worst students tend to show up for once. (It may, actually, be best only to read the evaluations two years after the fact, when they are not of the strongest personal interest.)
I was relieved, however, to see that the 67% of registered students who showed up to evaluate me did so pretty fairly and nicely. Nearly all of them, in fact, were certain that the class was presented in a more-than-usually organized manner (this was a surprise to me), and they all said I was more-than-usually accessible to students (even though no great number of them had come to my office hours). Of course, some of them did not especially care for me or the class, but this is normal, so I was glad that even those who were less happy tried to make useful comments. I will take into account that the textbook struck them as unnecessary and expensive, for example (if I use it again, I will suggest they share it with a friend or read it in the library, but I do not plan to give up using a textbook at all for my introductory courses, thank you). I liked the suggestion that I post the PowerPoint slides ahead of time, and sometime when I have everything prepared well in advance, I will be happy to do this. (Of course, we cannot guarantee that I will ever be that well prepared.) I am intrigued by the suggestion that more exams with less material would be preferable to a midterm and a final, and will consider this idea. I will not, however, be taking the suggestion that research papers be less than 8 pages. We can have other types of shorter paper. And, in response to the suggestion that I give examples of good comparisons, I can only say "read the handout."
There was general agreement that having the PowerPoint slides up on Courseweb was valuable. Several people, not unreasonably, thought I went too fast or included too much material. Reading and discussion of articles got a mixed response, which was not surprising as some of the class clearly loved this and some of the class seemed to find it heavy going.
All in all, it was nice to be reminded of a group of students who mostly tried hard and did a pretty good job. Some were astonishingly good and others really struggled, but overall it was a good class.

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Blogger Diane Dehler said...

I remember being a student and evaluating some potential instructors. I think it must be a stressful experience but also exciting. I couldn't imagine getting to write a research paper less than 8 pages but could imagine wanting to. :)

November 30, 2007 6:22 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

I was just thinking about evals--my students do them Monday. Ergh.

I actually refuse to put PowerPoint slides up before the lecture. I've found that if you do that, most students print them out and then just sit in class without taking notes because they think they have everything they need to know. (Of course, this is not all students!) So, while I'm not opposed to putting them up after lectures, I'm steadfastly holding out on doing it beforehand.

November 30, 2007 6:45 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

Re putting up the slides ahead (which was requested by one of my good students, you know how the handwriting sometimes gives it away), doesn't it depend on how much is on the PowerPoint slide? If it's just the image, artist, and title/date, do they still not take notes on what you say about it?

November 30, 2007 2:51 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

In my limited experience, I've found that of course the "good" students take copious notes no matter what you do. It's the ones who really need to have the PowerPoints in their hands to do well that sit and do nothing but turn the pages as you go along (or idly if they're bored). Even if just image, artist and title/date are the only things on the slides. I think it gives them a false sense of security. Anyway, I think it is better to put up the slides after the class, but I'm sure there could be great pedagogical debate about it.

Oh, and I always get nailed for being too fast, even when I feel like I'm proceeding at a snail's pace. Something to work on...

December 01, 2007 12:48 AM  

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