mid-semester feedback February 8

A Collaborative Midterm Student Evaluation

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Can students collaborate on the feedback they provide faculty? How would that kind of input be collected? Both are legitimate questions, and both were answered by a group of marketing faculty who developed, implemented, and assessed the approach.

The first argument, supported by research cited in their article, establishes the value of collecting midterm feedback from students. Students tend to take the activity more seriously because they still have a vested interest in the course. The teachers have the rest of the course to make changes that could potentially improve their learning experiences. There’s also research that documents when midcourse feedback is collected and the results are discussed with students, end-of-course ratings improve. And they don’t improve because teachers are doing everything students recommend—sometimes a policy doesn’t need to be changed so much as it needs to be better explained.

The faculty involved in this project reasoned that having students collaborate on feedback for the instructor might have several advantages. It could increase student engagement with the process. Almost across the board now, there are concerns about the low response rates generated by online course evaluations. In addition, students don’t generally put much effort into the feedback they provide. In one study cited in the article, students self-reported taking an average of 2.5 minutes to complete their evaluations. Because doing an evaluation collaboratively was unique and happened midcourse, faculty thought that maybe students would get more involved in the process.

They also wondered if the quality of the feedback might be improved by the interactive exchange required to complete it. And along with that, they thought the process could increase students’ feelings of accountability by virtue of providing feedback in a public venue. Perhaps it would be harder for students to get away with making highly critical, personal comments.

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Male professor in front of room. April 5, 2017

Understanding Our Strengths and Weaknesses as Teachers

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Every teacher has strengths and weaknesses. Have you ever tried to list yours? Doing so is a worthwhile activity. I’d recommend doing it in private with a favorite libation—only one, because there is a need to be thoughtful and honest.

I’m still thinking about mid-career issues, and I’m wondering whether by the time we reach the middle of our careers, we can’t confront our weaknesses with a bit more maturity.


stepping outside comfort zone March 22, 2017

Learning Outside Your Comfort Zone

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When we learn something outside the comfort zone, we attempt to acquire knowledge or skills in an area where we’re lacking. Part of the discomfort derives from learning something we anticipate will be difficult. We have no idea how to do it, or we think it requires abilities we don’t have or have in meager amounts. Moreover, poor performance or outright failure lurk as likely possibilities. In other words, it’s going to be hard and require concentration, and what we’re struggling to do, others can accomplish beautifully, seemingly without effort. Their skills, and our obvious lack of them, raise questions about our merits as a learner and maybe even our worth as a person.


male professor reviews course evaluations March 8, 2017

What Can We Learn from End-of-Course Evaluations?

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No matter how much we debate the issue, end-of-course evaluations count. How much they count is a matter of perspective. They matter if you care about teaching. They frustrate you when you try to figure out what they mean. They haven’t changed; they are regularly administered at odds with research-recommended practices. And faculty aren’t happy with the feedback they provide. A survey (Brickman et al., 2016) of biology faculty members found that 41% of them (from a wide range of institutions) were not satisfied with the current official end-of-course student evaluations at their institutions, and another 46% were only satisfied “in some ways.”


Teaching Professor newsletter turns 30 March 6, 2017

The Teaching Professor Newsletter Celebrates 30 Years

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Where were you 30 years ago? Maryellen Weimer, PhD, was writing the very first issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter, and she hasn’t stopped since.

In March 1987, Magna Publications published volume 1, number 1 of The Teaching Professor. The opening article read, in part:
“With all the enthusiasm of a new beginning, Magna begins publication of a newsletter for college professors about college teaching. … Can instruction be improved by reading material about teaching and learning? Yes. Reading about teaching forces reflection. It creates instructional awareness by causing faculty to wonder: Do I do that? Should I do that? Infusing teaching with a steady supply of new ideas keeps it fresh and invigorated.”

That philosophy of reflection and instructional awareness has remained a constant theme throughout the decades. As has the importance of keeping teaching fresh, regardless of teaching experience or discipline.


February 11, 2015

Our Ongoing Quest to Improve Student Learning: High Standards and Realistic Expectations

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“Teaching is such a challenge! Just when one thinks improvements are happening, the goal post of perfection moves further away. A bit like getting better headlights on one’s car: now you can see as far as the next corner, but the final destination remains out of sight!” Thanks to Nigel Armstrong, whom I met during a professional development day at Niagara University, for this insight.


May 1, 2013

It’s Time to Face What Isn’t Working in Our Courses and Find Out Why

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Not everything we do in our courses works as well as we’d like. Sometimes it’s a new assignment that falls flat, other times it’s something that consistently disappoints. For example, let’s take a written assignment that routinely delivers work that is well below our expectations. It might be a paper that reports facts but never ties them together, an essay that repeats arguments but never takes a stand, or journal entries that barely scratch the surface of deep ideas.


August 20, 2012

Transforming Teaching through Supplementary Evaluations

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Incredible changes have occurred in the brief 25 years I have spent as a professor in higher education. In the area of technology alone, significant innovations have impacted the way people work, play, and learn. The benefits these technological advances bring to faculty and students are incalculable.

Yet, some areas of higher education have undergone very little change.