Evaluating the evaluator

Every week, the same story… I spend hours reading and preparing the recitations, I am excited to ask them questions and set the class on fire, but when I arrive in the classroom, I find those blank faces sending me the message: ‘ok, whatever you have prepared for us today… deliver!’ In addition to these weekly episodes, there is another issue… which is the issue of not understanding the assignments. There are exams, and the questions are there, clear as water. But they are also asked to write position papers … and some among them are not able to find the questions in the text that introduces a problem… If the question is not there, they cannot find it.

I was perplexed. If they cannot find questions where there are no questions clearly stated, it means they accept a lot of information in their everyday lives as the ultimate truth about the world around them. As Sascha Engel noted in his post, we live in a society where the ability to select, analyze and scrutinize information is crucial.

Well, I was also very pleased to know that some of them have overcome this sense of loss and developed their analytical / critical thinking skills. Fortunatelly, there are always a few students exceeding any expectations… So, what is the rule and what is the exception in this case? Should I focus on successes or failures to evaluate my work and to evaluate them? How many students should be ‘converted’ to make a successful case? What is exactly this ‘learning progress’ that I am evaluating? If it is no longer about content…  things got a little complicated. But at the end, isn’t it still about content?

As a T.A. should I rely in the evaluation of my supervisor who thinks I am delivering excellent material? Should I trust my guts when it tells me there is something wrong if 3 among 25 are sleeping? Should I adapt my teaching style accordingly to the demands I find in the student’s evaluation? Who knows what is best to whom?

One Response to “Evaluating the evaluator”

  • tanyamh says:

    You pose some good questions here! I think I can speak best to “Should I adapt my teaching style accordingly to the demands I find in the student’s evaluations?”.

    I would say yes and no. It should be pretty clear, what comments are things that students just prefer and feel you should be doing as an instructor such as “Your study guide didn’t tell us EXACTLY what we needed to know for the exam”. Those things, I say toss aside. Comments which are simple requests which make life easier for them, such as “upload notes as word documents not PDFs” is a simple fix. I say accomodate those! For others which fall in the middle, it is probably just best to use your judgement on what is going to best facilitate engagement and learning from your students, while keeping in mind what is feasible for you.

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