Dissatisfied

Well, it seems that some of my composition students are dissatisfied with my performance.

Students at TCC are given an opportunity to provide feedback on both the course and the instructor. So far, five students have completed the survey (though why they’ve done so now, before the class is over, I don’t know). They’re asked these questions about my performance as an instructor:

The instructor provided constructive feedback that was helpful to me.

The instructor communicated expectations clearly.

The instructor knew the subject matter well.

The instructor showed respect for all students.

The instructor was accessible outside of class.

I would recommend this instructor to other students.

I’ve earned a 69% average – a C- in TCC’s grading scheme – from these five students (don’t ask me how the math works – I have access to a report that has all the numbers figured already).

I was rated with a “strongly disagree” by 40% for the first two statements and 20% for the last four. 40% “strongly agreed” with the first two statements, 20% with the second two, 60% with the fifth and 20% with the sixth. The average was rounded out with answers of “no comment” for several statements and a smattering of middle-of-the-road “agree” and “disagree” statements.

Am I bothered by this? A little. I’m not taking it too much to heart, though; this has been a profoundly difficult semester and I don’t feel as though I’ve really had an opportunity to connect with my students at all. I’m betting that, had we been able to spend even the allotted class time together (absent the holidays and snow cancellations), these students would indicate my performance more favorably. My suspicion is that they feel just as disconnected from me as I feel from them. Disconnection is not conducive to productive learning environments.

Still, I AM taking a lesson from these assessments. While I recognize that I can’t please everyone even some of the time, it is important for me to try. Have I done my best teaching this term? No; if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit that I haven’t. I’ve certainly done an adequate job – if I were to give myself a grade, I’d put me firmly in the B range – but I’ve not rocked the class. I’m going to stand by what I said earlier, though; I’m only responsible for PART of a student’s experience in my class. If you don’t come to party – or, in this case, to learn – you may as well stay home.

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7 Comments

Filed under composition, concerns, hybrids suck, self-analysis, The Job

7 responses to “Dissatisfied

  1. I think as students become more and more consumer oriented, our evaluations will continue to go down. At least for those of us who expect them to apply themselves and actually try.

    I had a student complain about me to the Dean because I would not to give her a set of definitive example programs to memorize for the upcoming test. I can’t seem to get it through her head that memorizing programs isn’t going to help her, since none of them will be on the test. I told her she had to learn to create completely new solutions to new problems on the test. Memorizing will not help a student like that! It frustrates me how many of them think this way.

    Of course, I must continue to remind myself, the stellar students never complain. So, I do not hear from them nearly as often as I do the complaints. I try to take requests to heart. As in, when they ask for more practice problems, I give them. When they ask for more review sessions outside of class-time, I give them. Problem is, these days, they seem to have lost investment. If I schedule an on-line (live conference call) review for them, maybe 3 out of 20 will show up.

    Oh, sorry. It’s not all about “me.” I am glad you can take your reviews and use them for self-improvement. I try to, but sometimes, it is difficult.

  2. Yeah, what she said. The complainers are going to fill out their forms early because they’re all disgruntled and want an outlet. The problem here is twofold, a. they’re probably only doing it for an outlet to particular frustration and 2. they may feel better once the class is complete.

    Seester, there’s an interesting conversation going on at a money blog I read (My Open Wallet) about a scheme that NYC is using with financial incentives for teachers AND STUDENTS (albeit elementary ones) to do well on standardized tests. Your complainer is the EXACT PORTRAIT of what I fear will come out of such a scheme.

  3. Interesting post and comments. I too believe that the consumer oriented approach of students causes negative evaluations. They don’t blame themselves for failure: they blame the teacher. Once they start taking responsibility for their own learning experience, they will start seeing things differently.

    I wouldn’t be too upset about this evaluation. After all, only 5 students completed it. The numbers and calculations look really threatening black on white, but it’s only the opinion of a minority. Usually the students that are satisfied don’t bother filling it in!

  4. Wayfarer

    The thing that always unnerves me about such feedback surveys is that they might be used punitively by administration. You’re leaving TCC, so it’s probably not that big a deal, but I hate how such surveys make me feel like I need to look over my shoulder all the time (whether the feedback is ultimately positive or negative). Teaching is very personal to most of us, much like art is to artists; we have a bit of US in what we teach. To have someone say they don’t appreciate what we put out there is one thing, but to have that feedback determine our professional fates is something else entirely.

    I wonder if schools and teachers would get better, more useful information from such surveys by asking questions from the students’ point of view.
    “Did you come into the class with the tools you needed to succeed?” tells a teacher that they may be putting material in front of the students that is beyond their skill. “How do you like to participate in this class?” gives students a chance to communicate what is really important here: That the student wanted to contribute to what was going on (whether this is because they were shy or because they’d not done the work is something other questions might reveal).

  5. I might be wrong here, but I have long suspected that students do not know how to provide feedback in an evaluation. They usually do not understand some of the questions. I have found that my students try be too nice but never tell me what they like. I have had a few mean ones too.

  6. Laurie B

    I’ve just finished compiling the evaluations for a seven week winter term program here at LU. I can’t believe the spectrum of the responses for almost every instructor. “Loved it/hated it, boring/exciting, I got it/I didn’t get it ” I think we won’t put a lot of stock into the answers.

    If I didn’t know otherwise, I would have said that some of these students were in entirely different classes from each other the whole time.

    As I was typing the notes out, I just had to laugh. Most of our instructors have great teaching methods and valuable information to share and some of these students just panned them.

    I guess that’s the difference between the students that want to own the company and the ones that just want to work for a company.

    Perhaps next year I’ll rewrite the evaluation questions more in the way of what Wayfarer has suggested.

  7. Teacher vs. Entertainer comes to mind. Too many of my (high school) students expect everything to be “fun” and that work won’t be needed. Industry is a valuable commodity these days, but many students are trained by the system not to possess it.

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