Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Survey says ... Good job!

My final class was this afternoon, and right now I'm grading the last of the essays from this semester. Less than 10 to go!

Of course, even with the finish line in sight, I'm still dallying. Watching a bit of "Bones," grading an essay, posting a blog, grading an essay .... you would think that I'd feel this super urgency to get through the grading and be Done. Done for a month! But the lethargy of grading wins out. There's only so many essays I can read on the same topic without zoning out.

One really nice thing about the end of this semester has been the class surveys. I created a basic survey to find out whether my students thought my teaching was effective or not, and maybe give me some suggestions on what to change or keep. Overall, I've learned:
  1. No one agrees on whether they liked the readings or not. The feedback on nearly every one runs the gamut from "completely ineffective" to "best ever!"
  2. No one agrees on whether some online activities were helpful or a waste of time. This was something new this semester, and I was really hoping the surveys would clarify whether it worked or not. But clarity is not to be had.
  3. They like me, they really like me! Even the class that was the most challenging (cell phones out, staring at me when I asked questions, not wanting to do activities) gave me overwhelmingly good feedback. The answer to the question, "What should I change?" was almost always "nothing," or something very minor. What students wanted to change most often was themselves: "I should have been in class more" or "Paid more attention!"
My first reaction, of course, is to float on Cloud 9. I will always keep these surveys. It definitely ends the semester on a high note, and actually makes me look forward to the next semester (which doesn't usually happen for a few more weeks).

On the other hand, as a pseudo-scientist, I doubt their objectivity. For several reasons:
  1. I am their only ENG-1010 professor. (Not true for all, but for many.) It's hard to rate me compared to other ENG-1010 profs or compare this course when you don't have experience with anyone else. Particularly when, for many students, this is the first college-level English course they've taken.
  2. I handed out the surveys in class, stayed in the room while they filled them out, and collected them at the end. They may have tended toward positive remarks either because they didn't want to hurt my feelings, or they didn't want to hurt their grades.
  3. The students who had really bad things to say about the class most likely didn't make it to class, had given up on participation points long ago, and just emailed in their essays.
It's a good feeling. Everyone loves positive feedback! But I am taking it with a grain of salt. There were differences in all three classes, but all of them said to not change a thing. I think that students like what they know, and because this was their English class, they want to believe that it was a good one.

But I'm not completely a Debbie Downer, I swear. It was really important to me that they all felt like I was available outside of class and that my expectations (and subsequent grades) were clear, and those issues were definitely affirmed.

Anyway, that's probably all of the dissecting of the surveys I should do. I could keep going, except it would read like a 12-year-old girl's Pro/Con list for asking Sean to slow dance on Friday night. Every positive would have a negative, the list would never end ... and all of the i's would be dotted with cute hearts.

Back to grading. After I get a glass of wine ....

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