As a teacher I have found evaluations to be exceeding helpful; I really appreciate the time people take to say what they’d like more of, or less of, what worked ,what didn’t work , what was the best thing, what was the least interesting etc. It’s not always easy in a real classroom to know what is going on – everyone is generally SO nice!! You don’t even hear the mutterings in the bathroom (unless you sit there very quietly with unidentifiable shoes!! ) and of course, online, there arn’t any bathrooms!! Nor facial expressions, vocal nuances, body language etc. For an online course, therefore, the feedback is even more important.
I must admit, however, that until I started teaching myself, I was usually very bad about giving feedback. A few times the experience was so awful that I did write a vituperative report ….and then never dared to hand it in. I remember when I was a critical reviewer for papers to a scientific journal, the editor telling me that he daren’t give the author of the proposed paper my review lest the author commit suicide! Didn’t want any teachers topping themselves on my account!
Another problem is that many venues either don’t ask for evaluations at all, or worse yet – recruit them and then don’t share them with the teachers!!! Every student I ever asked always thought they were writing specifically for the teachers to read their comments…not so! More than half the places I’ve worked never showed me the evaluations. Which is absolutely potty!! But, there it is. One man even patted me on the head and said “don’t worry, dear, you were fine”!!!! So now I’ve taken to asking students to please write me a little note – anonymously if they wish, of course.
It’s important to write an evaluation when your experience is good, as well as bad. It’s natural to only take the time to write if you are annoyed about something but the teacher needs to hear what worked as well as what didn’t work.
It’s best if the teacher allows a specific time for writing the feedback. One place I worked specifically asked us to do that and provided a person to pick up the evaluations straight away from the students. It can be very difficult to judge the overall success of the class if the sample of people responding is too small to reflect the feeling of the whole group.
Sadly, organizers can weight a negative response much more highly than a positive one. I remember one occasion where one negative response (from a histrionic person who wanted a Lot More attention than everyone else) carried much more weight than it should have against a large number of positive comments. But you really can’t please everyone, and spending time worrying about it is not productive. I’ve also learned from experience that it’s better not to respond to that one very difficult person by giving them time that should be given to the rest of the group. Rather, I’ve just quietly mentioned to the organizers that there is such a person in the class. Thank goodness, this is a rare happening, but I’m sure you’ve all been in a class with such an A.B. (“awkwardbugger”)!!! It can be very helpful in fact to let the organizers know. In one instance I had a schizophrenic lady who needed to pace; the organizers immediately moved us all to a very large room so that she could pace at one end when she had to and was not marching up and down within inches of everyone else! In another class, I realized that one of the students was significantly mentally handicapped; a word to the organizers led to a work study student being assigned to that person which worked out great for everyone.
As to the evaluations, what I find most helpful are very specific comments like: “the example you showed us of negative space was the clearest I’ve seen, perhaps a couple more like that and I’d never forget it”. Or, a request to write proper names on the chalk board, instead of just rattling them off…and so on.
So, please do let your teachers know the details…it really does only take a moment and your suggests are extremely important and helpful.
And, a big thank you to those who have bothered to write! I’m reading!!
By the way, sign ups are already ongoing for my next online course at Quilt University and my next three “real” classes are all full. However the one in Florida in October has some openings. Next May I’ll be at Hudson River Valley, and in October, 2011 at Arrowmont, in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. If I plan any more workshops, I’ll let you know! As always, thanks for reading….Elizabeth
PS I’m looking for a name for the piece at the top, any ideas?