Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'm beautiful but irrelevant

Because I am innovative or stupid, or maybe just in an insidious attempt to make my students think I care about them, I gave mid-semester evaluations today. Most people in my department, and probably my university, only give end-of-semester evaluations. But I figured that if the students are hating something I am doing, I'd rather know about it now while there is still time to change than get my arse kicked on the evals that matter and be able to do nothing about it.

There were a few multiple choice questions (Are we covering material too fast, too slow, just right, and how is your porridge?) and some short answers (How many hours per week are you spending on this class? Don't lie, God and your mother are watching you.) Then there was a space for them to add any further comments.

Weirdest comment:
I don't get what the point of this class is. I mean, I'm an English teacher, but I don't see how knowing what a pronoun is, how verb agreement works, or how to diagram a sentence is going to help me with my job, let alone my real life. Is this just meant to be some sort of geeky fun, or is there a practical application that I don't know about?

I can see how your average arts student might find linguistics a little irrelevant to his or her life, but for an English teacher, I would have thought the benefits would be clear. Also, what sort of "real life" application is s/he expecting? Would s/he ask the same question of a chemistry class? (Excuse me, I can't see how this formula will help me with my cooking!) Or of English literature? (Will being able to quote Shakespeare help me get rich quick?)

Favourite comment:
I like your class very much. I like that everything is on the website. And you are the most beautiful teacher I have ever seen.

Mostly, though, the comments were very helpful.

For example, I have been putting all my examples and terminology on overheads during class, and then uploading them to WebCT directly afterwards, so that students can download their own copies. Almost without exception, students said they would prefer paper copies in class so that they can write notes directly onto the examples. Which is fair enough. I was avoiding it because (a) it kills trees, (b) I worry that students don't really listen if they feel they don't need to take notes and (c) I have a copy limit of 1000 pages, and 80 students x 2 pages x 26 lectures goes four times over that. But I'll find a way to make it happen.

I also asked if they want a tutorial on how to write essays, and was expecting that most of them would. Instead, they mostly noted that they have had these already in many other classes, and would just like a handout or short briefing on how expectations for linguistics essays differ from other arts subjects. I can do that.

Overall, I think the evaluations were extremely useful, and I'll not hesitate to do them again. Especially if it means anonymous people tell me I'm beautiful.


The History Enthusiast said...

Evals are so entertaining, aren't they? I'm glad to see that you got some useful feedback.

Twirly said...

We solve the copy issue around here by posting everything ahead of time and then the students can chose to print it out themselves if they want it.