Tag Archives: teaching style

Ineffective Instructor, I Had To Teach Myself! Ah, Student Evals …

Ok, the semester ended a bit ago and student evaluations were compiled and given to me for my review and records.

First, a quick background on this semester’s course.

  • The course met once a week for three hours for one college semester.
  • One class had to be cancelled because of snow.
  • We took a 15 minute break at about the halfway point of each lecture.
  • There were four projects, four quizzes, four tests with the projects being take-home and the quizzes started off in class and if people couldn’t finish, then they could take them home.
  • Quizzes were the lecture before the exam.
  • The exam was, effectively, unlimited in time. The longest a student stayed was 4 hours, most finished within 2. Anyone with approved special accommodations were granted those accommodations. And when life happened, adjustments were made.
  • There were four topics, two chosen by the department, one chosen by me (Finance), and one voted on by the students (Graph Theory)
  • Deadlines for projects and quizzes were one week before the end of the semester. Most everyone turned in quizzes on exam day. Projects were completed at throughout the semester with some students being in lock-step with the course, others a few weeks behind. Some simply didn’t turn in projects.
  • Projects had to be typed. Pictures of handwritten work embedded in a word processor were not allowed. This is how I get my students to engage with technology — they need to produce something of the quality that they take for granted in their daily tech consumption.

Ok, now for the reviews! Broadly, 13 out of 15 students gave me Agree / Strongly Agree remarks on things like organization, preparedeness, communication, instructional effectiveness, access to help, enthusiasm for the class, and student’s learning progress. So by those numbers, all’s good! What of the two that marked Disagree / Strong Disagree? Well, let’s go to the video tape or the comments section.

Just a note: I don’t know who wrote what. The report that’s given to me is typed up. So, handwriting analysis is out of the question, and directly identifying comments are not included. Further, what I type is verbatim what the student wrote, typos and all as it was reported to me. There is only comment that I have edited and I have marked it as such.

Let’s get on with it!

What aspects of the instruction and course content were best?

  • Instructor explained concepts so that they were easy to understand and went over things a lot if students didn’t understand them.
  • The professor provided real life examples for concepts and clearly explained the material.
  • The many different examples the professor provided.
  • The course content is fine, some of it even applies to real life like the mortgage unit. The projects were also a fair assessment and not so hard that they became large undertakings.
  • Excellent teacher. Did not move on from a topic until the entire class understood.
  • The course content (some parts) relate to real life.
  • Probability section. [commentary: This is clear sarcasm, we never did probability!]
  • He was great with answering back emails with any questions we had and he always explained them well during the email.
  • THe professor was awesome. He was organized and he knew how to come down to our level, so helpful, he is a great teacher.
  • Teacher explained well and if students were unsure, he took the time to make sure we understood the material.
  • Everything.

Wahoo! That was pretty exciting to read! Though, I have to admit this was the first time I’ve seen a sarcastic comment in the “what did you like” section. 🙂


What aspects of the instruction and course content could be improved?

  • Some units did not seem to directly affect my life or degree pathway (logic unit), so it was hard to relate to some material.
  • Shorter chapter, longer breaks, shorter classes.
  • The instructor is not very effective. I feel as if I had to teacher myself most of what we are learning. He is a very smart man but he is not good at explaining things in simpler terms for people who are not already knowledgeable at the subject. Working and terms were not consistent through the lessons, quizzes, projects, etc.
  • Instead of 4 projects maybe reduce it to 2-3.
  • Reducing the amount of projects. When in real life will you use set and logic theory. [There was another sentence after this, but I have redacted it.]
  • He uses department projects which he claims to hate but continuously reminds us how important they are. He is not effective when teacher. Loves to over complicate everything! Makes things much harder than they have to be. Tests are impossible!
  • The professor is a great person. He explains some of the math as best as he can, but the language doesn’t always coincide with the departments test.
  • Personally for me he went a little fast but this course is 3 hours once a week so he probably had to rush through it.
  • I thought the book was a little confusing, but overall it was okay!
  • Need more time on certain aspects of the materials.

Ok, before I comment on this, there is one more section: “Other comments”.

Other Comments

  • Does not understand that math is not everyone’s strong point. Barely offers help when needed, instead, tells you to read the problem again and again. He loves to talk and hear himself talk. Not effective and would not recommend.
  • I feel the department should figure out what would be helpful for the student and the teacher. For comprehension purposes.
  • He was very friendly to his students.
  • Teacher responded quickly by email if needed.
  • Professor takes and makes an effort to help students always in class and out. He emails back whenever you ask a question in a timely manner. Always reassures you when you have doubt.
  • Really a difficult course. Because of this instructor he was able to simplify and the material making it a little easier to understand. He always was accessible too.

All in all, a fairly good evaluation, I felt. With every semester, when I read student evaluations, I cherish the good comments, and try to get some value from the negative comments.

What always amazes when I read the comments as a whole is how every semester there is always one or two students (in typical class sizes) who seem to have gotten a completely opposite experience from everyone else. On the one hand, we have “Professor takes and makes an effort to help students always in class and out.” and on the other hand, we have “Barely offers help when needed …”.

Or we have “… he is not good at explaining things in simpler terms for people who are not already knowledgeable at the subject …” vs “… he knew how to come down to our level, so helpful, …”.

It’s almost comical in some ways. Did they just despise me? Would they have complained no matter what, no matter the instructor? Or did I miss something big?

For some of the comments, I want to cue violins.

“Does not understand that math is not everyone’s strong point.” That’s completely false. 🙂

And for “Barely offers help when needed, instead, tells you to read the problem again and again.” Well, part of the problem isn’t math, it’s reading comprehension, to which a very good solution is to read the problem again. It’s true that I have asked to reread the problem and lo and behold, after a little prodding they’ve realized how they misread it the first several times!

As for “He loves to talk and hear himself talk.”, I don’t know what to say. I do blather on when in a casual setting (or this blog), I know that. But in the classroom we have a conversation and I certainly don’t monopolize talk time — that I know.

The one negative comment that I do want to focus on is the one that states “He uses department projects which he claims to hate but continuously reminds us how important they are.” Aside from the logical confusion (hate and importance are not mutually exclusive), I have to say, that I never once said “hate” with respect to department projects. What I had said was something to the effect of “These aren’t my projects, so you’ll notice that the style is not mine. These are department projects and I don’t have the luxury to negotiate them.” So I think I have to be a bit more careful how I word things. The overall point was to let students know that the department projects are non-negotiable in terms of content, style, etc. Whereas something like quizzes and exams, I was open to class suggestions because I did have some control over those. So that’s an interesting point for me to note.

While I won’t make any major changes in approach, I will change how I describe the department projects. I think I will emphasize more how the projects are not just important but also good, rather than just focus on the bureaucracy. I think the focus on the bureaucracy may have taken away from the quality of the projects.

Finally, is it an easy out to say, “They can’t all be winners.” when reading some of the negative comments? Or is it something to strive for — namely, a class (reasonable size) where every student had a wonderful experience without becoming a clown myself?

A request!

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