Amusing Comment on a Teaching Evaluation

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I just (for some reason) received the hard copies of my teaching evaluations for last spring, and the online versions I looked at months ago didn't have the reverse side with the written comments, so I was able to see some of the much more useful information finally. One comment stands out as especially noteworthy: "If you didn't read you had no idea what was going on, did not present info in an easy to follow manner"

I read that to one of my teaching colleagues, and he laughed. This is what we try to get across to students in the first week of class. Isn't it a bit lame to omplain that it's true at the end of class, as if that reflects badly on the instructor? In a philosophy class, the instruction time assumes that you've already done the reading. I'm not there to summarize the reading for them just so they won't have to do it. I'm there to help them reflect on it in a way that they would have a harder time doing without someone aware of the broader philosophical tradition, to inform them of whatever the readings did not happen to cover, and to engage in methods of approaching these issues that will clarify things in ways not addressed in the readings. What would be the point of assigning reading if I didn't want them to have thought about these issues before coming to class?

What's especially funny about this is a set of further factors that I didn't notice until I turned the page over to the front. It's a comment on the following question: "How would you rate the contributions of the assigned reading materials to the course? Please explain." The choices were Excellent, Very good, Good, Fair, Poor, or Not applicable. This student chose "Very good". In fact, all of the student's answers on the computer-graded section were pretty good (except for the one about prompt grading, the bane of my teaching existence). I should also note that the student indicated that they expected to receive a C+ in the course and indicated putting in average effort to make the course a success. I'm guessing that the student vicariously experienced the very good contribution of the reading material to the course through seeing that the other students who did it tended to do well in the course. Or something.

1 Comments

As a former and future student, I would like to applaud your approach to teaching. I absolutely despised classes in which the professor provided nothing more than an outline to the text. One class in particular that I had to take at the ungodly time of 7:15 AM was a perfect example of this method. Unfortunately, the instructor had an attendance policy. It's a crime that he reduced a topic with so much potential for engaging dialogue (ministerial ethics) to an unmodified regurgitation of an irrelevant book written in in the early 1920s (I kid you not, one of the chapters dealt exclusively with the propriety of using "Thee" and "Thou" instead of "You" when delivering public prayer). But this is supposed to be about your class, so for what it's worth, thank you for your contribution to real learning.

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