Friday, November 10, 2006

Teaching sociology: Ongoing classroom evaluation

When I arrived here at UConn, during the depression back in the 1930s, I didn't have much teaching experience and my teaching evals showed it. Then I got more comfortable and practiced, and my evals got above average, but still nothing to write home about. Last year, however, I implemented a trick that I learned from our Institute for Teaching and Learning, and my evals have skyrocketed to silly-high levels.

What is this super secret weapon for teaching success?

A one-page evaluation form that I hand out each class. It goes like this:

Sociology 216, Feedback Form (Anonymous)

What worked well in today's class?

What could be improved?

Any questions or comments?

Now, with big classes, I'll give this out to about 10% the class each period, rotating which students I give it to, and then they hand it in at the end of the class.

Why does this work?

Well, I'm going to get the feedback sometime anyway, whether now or at the end of the semester on my formal evals. Why not now when I can address the issues?

The feedback I get is practical & thoughtful. The students genuinely want to be helpful, and there is almost never inappropriate comments (though they do like to weigh in on my habit of teaching barefoot--hey, what can I say? I grew up in California).

The feedback is also remarkably consistent in that the "worked well" and "could be improved" comments agree across students. Furthermore, this is where I pick up things that could become a problem (think canary in coal mine) plus when things accidentally work really well, and I'll want to use them for next time.

For additional essays on teaching sociology:


Classroom Evaluation Form said...

The post is very good, thanks. Do u have any sample of classroom evolution forms.

Brad Wright said...

It's just those three questions, with spaces below for students to write.