Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Student Evaluations

At the end of last week I had a rotten day, made more so by reading student evaluations from a first-year writing class, in which several students commented that I was "too dry" and that I should be "more entertaining." Meh. I hate student evaluations.

When I went back and looked at the ratings they gave for how useful the session will be as they do the research required for the course, they were consistently 4-5 with a few 3's thrown in, on a 1-5 scale. OK, not so bad after all, if I focus on their perception of learning.

Today, I made more of a conscious effort to move around while I talked, making eye contact, and varying my voice pitch and tone. One of the students wrote, "she was the best instructor I have had since I have been in college" (this from a 5th year student). Pretty affirming. Still, I remind myself that student evaluations are very subjective, and wonder why they elicit such strong feelings in us. After all, can an evaluation form get at whether or not students really learn in these sessions? No, not really. So it's about the sense of self, and ego.

Yet this form is a required part of assessing "teaching effectiveness" at GVSU along with self-evaluation and peer-evaluation.

As far as assessing learning, professors who teach semester-long courses also have tests, essays, etc., to measure learning (if it's possible), and assessment to take an overall look at student learning within a program. The library isn't quite there yet. There just isn't a good way to assess student information literacy in the context of single instruction sessions. We have tried the SAILS test a couple of times as a program assessment but see some problems with it. There are now newer assessment tools and I'd like to know more about them.

In the meantime, I realized that it's also time for me to get some feedback from disciplinary colleagues again. What are their perceptions of my teaching effectiveness and student learning?

This journal forms part of my self-evaluation. This fall, I've been making more of an effort to write down the learning objectives and talking those over with instructors and students. Other than that, I just reach into the "bag of tricks" (aka "teaching toolbox") developed over 20 years and do my best....

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