Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Student Comments

I'm going to do something here you rarely see a prof do -- share student evaluations. Normally there'd be no good reason to do this, but I was teaching a new class in our new curriculum, a large lecture class called Information Gathering. Essentially I lectured a hundred or so students on how to find stuff out. You can see a version of the class here. Scroll down the calendar to get a sense of what we did, then return here.

I learned a lot from the comments, stuff I need to add in the Fall. Here are some stats based on evaluations of 85 of the 106 students enrolled. Below the stats I include some of my favorite comments by students (good and bad). That stats below are on a 1-to-5 scale, with 5 being good (agreement).
  • The instructor knows the subject matter. (4.8)
  • The instructor appeared to be thoroughly competent in his/her area. (4.8)
  • The course was well organized. (4.2)
  • The instructor was enthusiastic when presenting course material. (4.6)
  • I have become more competent in this area because of this course. (4.5)
  • I felt that this course challenged me intellectually. (3.8)
There are lots of other questions, but the results reflect what you see above. So I'm competent, but I need more rigor in the class. I wasn't sure about this one, given the large lecture format, but one thing that pops out in comments is students would like more hands-on exercises. I have plans to do just that. I had three such exercises in Spring, the first semester of the class. For example, one of them required students to background a non-profit. I taught them how to analyze Form 990 via GuideStar, then had them pluck a non-profit from their hometown and upload the results. The issue with such exercises, of course, is someone has to go through the hundred or so uploads. That's why God made graduate students, I suppose.

For comments, students are asked what they liked most and liked least, forcing them to come up with both positive and negative comments. A third question asked for any additional comments but most didn't bother. Below, a greatest hits.

Liked Best

Dr. Hollander made the material interesting and exciting. I can tell that he knows his stuff, and I enjoy hearing from him about his experiences in the field.

He had lots of examples of how to use the tools he taught us.

Hollander's a smart ass and a jack ass, but he knows what he's talking about and his anecdotal teaching is entertaining and genuinely helpful.

Hollander was a fantastic lecturer. Every morning I was very motivated to go to class because he made class very enjoyable.

OK, you get the idea. Blah blah blah. Fun guy, if you can take any class this semester, make it this one. Now let's get to the fun stuff, what they didn't like about the class.

Liked Least

The weight of tests- more class assignments would help

Not enough assignments where we can practice what we learned.

The thing I liked least was that we couldn't use our computers to take notes, but I also understand because if we could use them about 50% of students would be doing other things rather than actually taking notes.

Looking back, I think Professor Hollander could have had more in class discussions. I feel like we did not get to discuss things as much as I would have liked.

So there's a lot to be gained from these comments, especially on a new class. Anticipate more class discussions in Fall, more out-of-class assignments. I've already got a few lined up and I'm giving thought to a semester-long portfolio in which each student has to background stuff in their hometown based on what I've taught them. Gotta give that one some more thought, but it's not a bad idea and perhaps it could be the equivalent of a test grade. Thoughts?

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