Notes and observations from the course evaluation wars

One of the fun things about the first half of the survey is anticipating what sorts of things students will say on their evals at the end of the semester. It’s always interesting to see what students understood the course was about. Case in point from Fall 2008’s HIST 117:

Good, not outstanding because we talked way more about Indians than I would have expected for this class.

Clearly I must have failed to make the point that understanding why Indians did what they did is critical to understanding American history! I guess from this student’s point of view, outstanding courses only focus on white Americans?

Another of my favorites:

There is no textbook and there are four to five novels to read.

Novels? Novels! At first I thought that perhaps my students are unaware of the difference between fiction and nonfiction, but one of my colleagues has suggested that many students use the words “book” and “novel” synonymously. Hilarious! This student went on to write:

Keeping up with the reading will greatly increase your chances of succeeding in this class.

At least I did manage to make that little fact clear!

In the odd comment category, I place this evaluation of my teaching:

I did not like the manner she spoke her lectures. She spoke them, rather than talked about them, and they were nonstop.

I find this one pretty puzzling. One doesn’t generally “speak” lectures, one “gives” or “delivers” them. How does one “speak” a lecture, rather than “talk” about a lecture? Sigh. At least I am not at a public university in Texas, where my receipt of a bonus might be contingent on the things students write about my class.


2 thoughts on “

  1. Sounds like a pretty valid comment from the student, bad grammar not withstanding. You might ask yourself: how do you use class time? Do you discuss things? Do you break them into groups? Ever do any free writing? Cooperative or interactive learning techniques? Lecturing is the least effective way to transmit data to students. This has been proven in many scholarly studies in education and learning.

  2. Actually, I do a lot of non-lecture activities in my class, including group work on packets of primary sources. And, naturally we do discuss the aforementioned “novels.” I would estimate that about a third of total class time is spent in non-lecture activities.Lectures should not be about transmitting data, but rather about tying historical information together into a coherent interpretive narrative for students who are just beginning college and taking their first history classes.

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