Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Student Evaluations

My university checks out the student evaluations pretty closely (or at least they tell us!) when contract renewal time comes up so it's a moderate source of stress for me throughout the year. But, each semester I've been working here, they've gotten better and better. My secret is reading the comments that the students leave. They mostly write them in Korean, but I run them through a translator if I can't figure them out to get the gist of it.

My first semester, I essentially had no attendance policy and got very bad reviews for that so I implemented a system where I monitored the situation much more closely and it hasn't been an issue since. Basically, I don't accept that many excuse papers and the students need to personally come check their attendance with me so there is no possible way to cheat for their friends or whatever.

My second semester, I did exclusively speaking exams 1-1 with me and the students didn't seem too happy because such a big part of their grade was based on this totally subjective thing. And they were right of course, so I implemented some written quizzes for a more objective assessment in my classroom to make it more fair.

And I just finished the third semester with very high reviews. My lowest category was, "The teaching matches the syllabus." Kind of strange because I followed my syllabus exactly. I think it's just that maybe the students didn't really understand it because it wasn't simple enough. So I'll make some adjustments on that for next semester.

Anyway, the major thing I think is to not be defensive about it. Some of my coworkers seem to get angry about the whole thing and don't really take the student criticism seriously and look at how they can work to improve their classes. This is to their detriment I think when evaluations come around next time.

Another thing I see in many of my coworkers is a refusal to change their style to suit the unique context of Korea. Some people I work with constantly talk about how university is so different (ie: more difficult!) back home and so they gauge their classes to fit in with this idea of how it should be. And the student's naturally hate it because in their minds, university is this 4 year party time between high school hell and selling out their soul in 16 hour days at some big company for 40 years of their life. There is a happy medium to make it easy and fun enough so that the students like you, but so that some actual learning is happening and you can have some self-respect at the end of the day.

Just a few thoughts for you today.

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