Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Course Evaluations

Is everyone enjoying their summer break? I am! I know some of you don't get out of school yet for another week or so, which is so weird to me. All the districts around here are out by the beginning of June. If you do have to go late into the summer, when do you return in the fall? We were out May 30 but go back Aug. 15. Not sure if I'd rather get out of school earlier or get to go back later in Sept.

So far my summer break has consisted of being outdoors as much as possible. The rain finally ceased and we had sunny days this week. So far, I've done a lot of reading outside (I took my Nook up to a pretty road that runs by the river and has some awesome views and read up there), went for a long walk on a bike trail we have that runs through some pretty countryside and spent some time writing. Yep, this summer I am working on my lifelong goal of writing a book, a novel to be exact. It's something I've wanted to accomplish since I was a kid and an avid reader, and since I have no major obligations this summer (last summer we bought our first house and two summers ago I got married), I decided this time is as good as any. So far I have about 15 pages, and I am trying to carve out a couple hours each day to write, usually on my patio while this girl runs around.

Anyways, I wanted to write today about something I have my College English kids do each semester that I am thinking of expanding to all classes: a course evaluation.

This is very similar to the course/instructor evals I'm sure we all filled out while in college at the completion of every course. I started it with College English, since it technically is a college course, and I wanted to format it like a college course as much as I could. Their evaluations were only for my purposes, though, and didn't actually get sent to the college we pair up with. Especially since it was my first year teaching these classes, I did want some constructive feedback and knew my kids would be honest but, well, not jerks about it. It was a short one but covered what I needed it to cover. The questions were:

1) What skills covered in ENG 101/102 do you feel most prepared you for future College English courses?
2) Which skills do you feel deserve the most time and attention in ENG 101/102?
3) Did you keep up with the textbook readings? How helpful did you find the textbook?
4) What are some ways you feel the instructor could improve student participation and interest?
5) Did you feel comfortable approaching the instructor for help? Why/why not?
6) What suggestions do you have for the instructor to improve this course in the future?

The key to doing this is that is has to be truly anonymous or you will never actually get good feedback; just what they think you want to hear. I always have them do this after final grades are entered just in case they have their doubts about this affecting their grade if I found out who said what (which I assure them would never happen).

In college courses, usually the instructor leaves the room when the students fill these out, but in high school, I can't really leave them unsupervised (well, they would be fine but I'm sure my principal wouldn't want me just strolling down the hall and leaving them unattended!). So I have them fill them out, fold them in half, keep them at their desk and then assign one student to collect all of them. Then I have him/her shuffle so they are in no particular order before handing them to me. If you REALLY wanted anonymity, you could have them type, so you can't tell handwriting apart.

I do get good feedback from them. They have given me some insightful suggestions for future classes, and I know that if I do get positive feedback, it's because that's how they truly feel and not because they are just writing what I want to hear, since it's anonymous and is not tied to grades. Pretty much everyone said they hated the texts and never did the readings lol. Unfortunately, text selection for these courses is out of my hands and I have to go with what the college sets up. But I will try to find ways to supplement the text next year that make it more interesting.

So anyways, I'm thinking of rolling this out with other classes. To do this, you need a thick skin and need to be able to let the non-constructive criticisms roll off your back (things like "You're stupid/This is stupid/You don't know what you're doing", etc.). I don't get that stuff from my college students, but probably would with underclassmen. They try and write that stuff on peer responses, so I have no doubt they'd also try it with me :) But it still might be worth it for the few actual constructive responses you might get. I always want to try to improve, and since my students are my audience, why not go to them for some suggestions as well?

Have you used course evaluations in your classes? If so, how do you do them to get the best results and constructive responses?

1 comment:

  1. Good for you for getting started on your novel! That is AWESOME! I am participating in the National Writing Project's Summer Writing Institute to learn more about teaching writing and I know daily writing will be a part of that. I can't wait! I am glad I found your blog and am your newest follower (and also called Mrs. L)!

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