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January 29, 2007

Et Tu Brute?

Last night I went out with my friend Diana to celebrate her 26th birthday (!) and she told me to check my History Department mailbox because teaching evaluations from last semester had come in. Eager to see them, I set out extra-early this morning (6:45) so I could stop by the History Department on my way to work. Let's just say, I shouldn't have.

To begin with, my 1pm section didn't even bother to turn in their evaluations. That's right -- out of my 37 students, I only had 16 evaluations. I opened the evaluations for my 10am section first. This section had been my favorite to teach and, judging by the midterm evaluations, I really thought they liked me. But I was wrong. All of my scores were between 3.13 and 4.20 (on a five-point scale), and most were in the bottom quartile for the university as a whole. Even though I had very few scores of one or two (strongly disagree or disagree with statements such as "one real strength of this discussion section was in the classroom discussion"), I was surprised at how many threes (neutral) I got. Please, kids, have an opinion! My highest scores were on "the discussion instructor seemed to enjoy teaching" and "the discussion instructor was friendly." What bothered me the most, however, was that only two of the nine respondents in this section took the time (and I gave them plenty of time) to answer the open-ended questions. One person actually did answer all five of these questions, demanding "more light, individual work." What is the point of coming to a discussion section if the instructor has students work individually? Another person simply said "this discussion was largely unhelpful" and nobody else wrote anything. I have to admit that I'm pretty pissed off at these kids for giving me low scores and not even explaining why.

Opening the 9am evaluations made me feel a little better. My lowest score on those was 3.67 ("I reconsidered many of my former attitudes") and all of the other scores were above 4.25. I even got unanimous fives on "overall, the discussion instructor was an excellent teacher." That warmed my heart. These students did answer the open-ended questions, saying things like "the quality of instruction was excellent, Emily was friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
She listened well and always gave positive feedback on responses;" "Emily was such a viable component to our success. Whether fielding questions, providing her own, or engaging us in debate, she was always there to help;" "Emily was an amazing GSI. Her passion for the subject clearly showed whenever she was teaching...She was very good at getting everyone to participate in duscussion and understood that some people, though they aren't necessarily vocal are actively participating and listening. She even got me to speak a lot in duscussion section and that says a lot." The worst comment I got from this section was "9:00 is too early."

So what were those 10am kids thinking?

Posted by eklanche at January 29, 2007 07:31 AM


First of all, those comments always are weird. Some of these kids are entitled and ungrateful and have expectations that are all over the map. Have you ever looked at ratemyprofessor.com ? It is crazy! And I checked to see the UVa scores--and they were much better. I think it has something to do with Michigan, but it is a long theory. Don't feel bad though!

Posted by: kisha at January 29, 2007 01:18 PM

While it does suck when students don't answer the open-ended questions, you should know that your scores seem to be really great overall! At least compared to my own. (I don't believe in that university-wide comparison; look at the LSA scores, they tend to be lower) To think, all this time I've been excited to get scores ranging between 3 and 4...perhaps I just have low expectations?

Posted by: dlmankow at January 30, 2007 02:24 AM

I agree with Miss K and Miss D. Evals are always really weird and its true that LSA instructors get lower scores than the rest. Its harder for us to have, say, games like they do in math or psych or science or whatever because we'd have to make up jeopardy-type questions, which is a LOT of work! I mean, the point is discussion-based analysis not entertainment, right? This is not Burger King. They can't have it they're way. ;) All 5's on the overall question? Congratulations, girl! Sounds like you're a great teacher!

Posted by: isaq at January 30, 2007 09:50 PM

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