I consider student feedback, both formal, such as the Student Evaluation of Teaching, and informal, such as personal comments and observations of student performance, are critical to improving my teaching so that it is as effective and impactful as possible for my students.
While I dynamically incorporate informal feedback in my day-to-day teaching, I reflect on the Student Evaluation of Teaching more closely after a semester’s close. I created the charts below to illustrate the trends of my responses and show how they relate to the English Department average.
My overall average score on the Student Evaluation of Teaching surveys is consistently above the English Department average each semester. Additionally, I have an average score for 2014-2019 of 4.84 and the department average is 4.51.
In virtually all classes, I receive a majority of “Strongly Agree” responses to the survey statement, “The instructor communicated in a way I understood.” My Fall 2017 ENG1710 was an outlier. Perhaps it was because I developed new lectures for this semester, but it is puzzling as students performed well on the final exam and I provided a series of mini-lectures throughout the semester reflecting and connecting past content to each meeting’s new material and an online video review for the final exam.
Held Interest and Attention
After finding my bearings during my first semester at City Tech, I earned many “Strongly Agree” responses to the statement, “The instructor held my interest and attention in class.” During my first semester, I learned a lot from my students about their background and preparation for college. I was able to develop new techniques to engage them based on their experiences. I found that identifying a variety of hooks on which they can hang ideas and concepts on was key, and developing lectures that use a range of modalities to communicate key points helps tremendously.
Again, my students during my first semester at City Tech taught me how best to teach them, and I carried those lessons throughout my subsequent classes to earn a majority of “Strongly Agree” responses to the statement, “The instructor took the time to explain the material when students did not understand it.” Now, I build in repetition, rephrasing, defining, and more question and answer into my lectures to ensure students understand course material.
Encouraged Ideas and Participation
Throughout my classes, I have received strong responses to the statement: “Students were encouraged to express their own ideas and/or participate in class activities.” I bring an enthusiasm to the material that I teach and I leverage that enthusiasm to help students share their ideas, thoughts, and observations. I try to build in ways to have them participate in class–during lecture, individual work, and team work.
Showed Courtesy and Respect
I earn good marks in response to the statement, “The instructor treated students with courtesy and respect.” It should go without saying that everyone deserves to be treated with courtesy and respect. I reinforce this with my behavior in the classroom to foster a positive and inclusive space for learning and working together. Also, I discuss with students about the importance of mirroring that behavior outside of the classroom in their lives and careers so that we can work together to get things done in a positive and supportive way.
Availability to Students
My scores are consistently high in response to the statement, “The instructor was available to students for discussions or conferences.” While I have office hours, which I remind students of at the beginning and end of each class, I encourage students to make an appointment to see me about anything relating to their success in my class or in their studies at City Tech. My time is constrained, but I ask students to let me know what their availability is like for a week ahead and I coordinate with them to find a good time for us to meet in my office in Namm 520.
My scores are strong in response to the statement, “The instructor generally met the class on time and held class to the end of the period.” I aim to begin class on time. The two outliers on this chart–Fall 2016 ENG1710 was caused by not having a key to the room in Vorhees where it was held, so I had to wait on security to open the door each meeting, and Spring 2017 ENG1133 was similarly delayed as I was teaching in a room in the Namm building before I had been issued a key and had to wait on security to open the door.
In half of my classes, I received a perfect score in response to the statement, “The instructor spoke clearly and could be heard in class.” In general, I’m hoarse by the end of a long class, because I try to speak much louder than I normally talk. This is due to the fact that many of our classroom facilitaties have strange configurations, loud HVAC systems, street-level noise, or a combination of these impediments to easy listening. Nevertheless, I am working on one issue that I am aware of that I have control over–the speed at which I talk. When I get exited about a subject, I tend to speak faster. This past semester, I observed this more closely thanks to my video recording each lecture in the classroom before the pandemic hit.
Grading System Clearly Explained
While my responses to the statement, “The grading system for the course was clearly explained,” has been higher than the department average in the majority of classes that I have taught, I clearly saw from the data below that when I began breaking down large assignments into smaller tasks, providing more details and examples, and building into my daily lecture reminders about grading detailed on the syllabus, students responded favorably–see Fall 2017 ENG1710 and after.
Overall, my scores in response to the statement, “Overall the instructor’s teaching was effective,” follows an upward trend except for the outlier of Fall 2017 ENG1710. Again, I tried new lecture material, but nothing that was radically different than how I taught the class before or after. And all the students passed the class with very good grades after demonstrating on their exam and projects that they had learned the material that I taught them. One student from this section (see comments embedded below) wrote the following in response to this statement: “Careful thought & consideration were put into the readings & when they were introduced to us. Thank you for challenging and encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones.”
The following are the student comments that I have received on the Student Evaluation of Teaching surveys.