Saturday, May 15, 2010

Evaluations: feed back is vital

karen apr 10 026

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?


Deb Lacativa said...

what...what..FL in OCT?

I've just rummaged through your site and can't find what and where.

Diana Parkes said...

Title: High Rise

Anonymous said...

My immediate response on seeing your quilt piece was to think of gloriously rising redwood trees and a wonderfully designed contemporary cathedral. My thoughts rarely being religious, I don't easily formulate a title beyond Church in the Wildwood, but wonder if that feels too reminiscent of "the little brown church in the dell" which this certainly is not. Ethel

Ruth said...

I too, think that this piece looks very cathedral like. Perhaps "Sacred"?

kathy loomis said...

I'm a huge believer in teacher evaluations, probably stemming from my corporate job where I taught writing. More than once I nearly wrecked the car trying to read the evaluations while driving home. I've always been surprised at how few quilting venues include evaluations -- as you point out, we're all trying to be so damn nice. On more than one occasion I have provided unsolicited written feedback to the teacher (more constructive than critical) and never got a response, even a perfunctory "thanks for your comments." Makes you want to beat your head against the wall. Good for you to request and act on student comments.

Sandy said...

I appreciate your comments on the 'AB' type learner in your classes. I have just got my teaching adults qualification and have started teaching in a community college. Last year, I had some lovely students for several sessions of the design part of the C+G fashion course.

Now, in my first full blown course, I am teaching the whole C+G fashion course.
I have 6 students,
One constantly argues about what I am trying to cover and says the sampling work is like "women's institute" and so beneath her, I guess.
One has accused me of not liking her because of where she is from. (?WHAT? until then I didn't know where she was from!) She takes down the info, but her excuse for not having sewing supplies or paper, etc is because " I never told her." We are on week 25!

and finally, one who has sewn for alot longer than others, moans about being held back...even though I suggest "extras" and just going off and doing it without waiting for indepth explanations if she already knows.

I never know which one will confront me that day!

It is all rather strange to me. I have always been an over keen sort of learner! I live in hope that teaching can only get better after this!

The college has decided to have a more thorough interview process next year to be sure the right people are put on the right courses and that students know up front what is expected.

Sandy in the UK

Ruth Kenner said...

I love the quilt and the article I will think about it every time I begin teaching or when I need to resort to it after a viscous non-consrtructive criticism.

Suzanne Sanger said...

I posted TWO evaluations for your QU class. I'm happy to read that you appreciate evaluations because I've been a little worried that I've been offending you, which I totally don't intend to do. On rereading the material from the class, I have to say it's probably the most valuable one I've ever taken. It was just SO overwhelming because of the structure, with everything I think is important crammed into the first two weeks and then the last two weeks devoted to things I don't think are as worthy of much time in a design class. I have a theory that the class structure may have been imposed on you and that you, too, would prefer to spend more time on the early material. No matter. Bottom line, however, is that I want you to know this class has probably changed forever the way I will work. Now that I've had time to reread and begin to digest the material in the early lessons, I realize how much you managed to cram into them! I already feel much more confident about the 'art' part of what I do. I've pretty much mastered the mechanics, but THANK YOU for helping with the really important stuff! After reading this post, I'm more hopeful you won't let a loud-mouth student deter you from continuing to share your knowledge with us. BTW, I have 3 friends in the class, and all of us felt the same way about the structure. I hope the others shared their ideas with you as well.

frazzledsugarplummum said...

I always enjoy whatever you write...all new to me. I'd like to see the title for the piece reflect the off centre background piece in black/grey. No idea what.