Monday, January 3, 2011

It's that time of year again: Evaluations!

Yesterday, my evaluations from the students were up online.  The grand total was 88%.  For the past couple years, I've been stuck in the 87-89% range and can't quite seem to get out of it.  My first couple years teaching at a uni, I made some big mistakes and got scored appropriately.  I learned from the comments the students made, made changes and my scores improved steadily. 

But now?  What to do.  The students really leave no helpful feedback anymore except, "everything was perfect" "fun games" "I love you."  I know that I shouldn't really care, but my uni seems to be obsessed with our evaluations and this seems to be almost the sole way that we get evaluated on our job performance. 

When I go class by class, I see that the top level ones loved me.  Like close to 100% scores.  It's the very low-level ones that are the bane of my existence.  They give me closer to 80%.  Perhaps it's because I try to teach the same material to all my freshman English classes and it's too difficult for the poor classes?  Maybe it's something in my attitude towards them, like I often can't quite believe that they've studied English for 7 years but can't tell me their name or where they're from.  Maybe it shows in my (probably) negative body language towards them?

What are your tips for me readers? 


Mike said...

Jackie, I taught in Asia for a few years prior to returning to the states for grad school (for ESL) and work. Regarding your frustration with the lower level students and how it might manifest in your gestures, I think the easy solution is for you to not be frustrated. The hard part is to carry out that suggestion, of course. :) Understanding their perspective could help. I have some suggestions for you:

**You teach English as a foreign language, so the kids there don't have the sort of integrative motivation that really, really helps people learn a language. English is just something they've had to deal with for school. I teach for a public school district in the USA, so the kids I see acquire tons of language throughout the day -- English is EVERYWHERE for my students. For your kids, that exposure and opportunity for acquisition just isn't there (unless you count the sort of rubbish you find on clothing in northeastern Asia -- see:

**You're also working within an education system that has a VERY long history of Confucianism and all that good stuff, so rote memorization and teacher-to-student lectures are what they are most familiar with. Sticking to this formula with language is a bad idea for many reasons: language is a system of communication -- for students to acquire language, the utterances they're attempting need to carry some meaning. Check out some of David Ausubel's work on rote versus meaningful memorization/learning. The Korean language classroom practices a lot of really old, obsolete methods, like the Audiolingual Method, Grammar Translation Method, etc. For example, the kids in Korea sometimes have to memorize boring dialogues that mean nothing. So, it's no wonder that they show up at your college classroom without having remembered anything they were exposed to during those first seven years. Your kids might not expect the sort of student engagement that you're trying to provide. If you ARE trying to get them involved and actively thinking in what they're learning, you are doing something great. However, the students might feel more comfortable with the lecturing that they've had throughout their lives. This is quite interesting because the way they've had it is the WRONG way, and yet it is what they know and might desire from you. If that's the case, compromise a bit so that you're incorporating SOME of that grammar/form-focused instruction that they know. Just find a way to integrate it into your lesson.

Mike said...

A bit more:

**The Affective Domain!! Study up on Stephen Krashen's work. Know "the affective filter." When you use negative body language or show any type of hostility or put kids on the spot, their level of anxiety will increase. With this type of debilitative anxiety, students are less likely to participate and their inhibition increases; the research has shown that this results in less-successful language learning.

**DON'T rip them apart for grammatical or pronunciation issues. These students, who have struggled with language learning, have probably been drilled to death on pronunciation, which would be consistent with Korean society's focus. But this isn't a big issue for novice students. Focus more on MEANING. Can they comprehend and produce meaningful utterances? Are they getting their messages across? At this level, be selective about what you correct. Don't frequently interrupt students to tell them that they're making mistakes. This goes hand-in-hand with the anxiety issue.

**Provide the lower level students with plenty of opportunities for interaction. Bring in tons of visuals, manipulatives, realia, etc. Try giving them some activities in which English language learning is incidental.

**More Krashen. Krashen's i+1 posits that learners benefit from language input that is just slightly more difficult than what they're comfortable with. Be wary of any material that is too difficult. Get them reading books and doing activities that they can master -- let them feel some accomplishment. Let them believe/realize that they can do it!

Good luck out there, Jackie! I enjoyed your blog posts.


Jackie Bolen said...

Your comments are all very helpful. Thank you! Maybe you should write a blog?!