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How My Theory Of Knowledge Students Evaluated Me This Semester — “We learned things that are different than normal classes”

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As usual, during the semester finals, I had my students provide anonymous evaluations of classes and me. I always tell them (and always follow-through) that I will be posting the results — warts and all — on my blog and also share it directly with colleagues. I doing that enhances the odds of their taking it seriously. I tell them that I put a lot of time into helping them become better learners, and now it’s their turn to help me become a better teacher.

Today, I’ll share the results from my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class. I’ll go through results from other classes later tonight and post about them during the weekend.

You might also be interested in The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers).

Here is the simple form
I had my TOK students complete.

Here is each question, followed by representative answers, which are in turn followed by a short analysis by me:

1) What are the two or three most important things you have learned in this class so far?

How to ask Why all the time and how to improve my work ethic.

A different way of thinking — how emotion can relate to everything in some way.

The distinction between science and pseudo-science.

How to make presentations. (many wrote this)

Actually, many things we learned interest me. The way we’re influenced by perception, emotion, language and reason was the most striking.

I learned how to communicate better, write better and think better.

What we think we know may be tainted — keep and open mind.

How we need to question things to open our minds.

MY ANALYSIS: I was generally pleased with many of the responses to this question.  However, a number of students also just listed different Ways of Knowing or Areas of Knowledge.  I need to remember in the future to ask students to be more specific in their responses and give some examples — Model, Model, Model!

2) What have you liked about this class or how it was taught?

I liked how we presented our thoughts and the debating.

What I like about this class is that it very relaxing unlike my other classes that are stressing me out so much I’m going crazy.

I liked how it was taught because it was not boring desk work.

I liked how Mr. Ferlazzo kept the class fun and humorous while still learning.

I liked the pace of learning — it wasn’t too fast or too slow, it was just right.

I like how we give presentations because I’ve been able to improve my skills with presenting.

Working in groups and making posters.

I liked that we had weekly homework that we knew about ahead of time and that we learned through student presentations.

All the partner work.

We learned things that are different than normal classes.

I liked how the class was very organized and worked like clockwork.

I liked that it helped me get confidence in myself when presenting in front of the class.

I liked how this class is college level — I actually feel like a college level.

The class was fun. I never fell asleep in the class because your bald head is always too bright — it keeps me awake.

MY ANALYSIS Again, I’m pleased with these responses. I work hard at keeping the class engaging and it seems to pay-off. Also, just FYI, I love how document cameras enable students to quickly create simple “posters” on regular size paper for use as a presentation visual.

3) How do you think this class could be improved?

Less use of posters.

I didn’t like how the class worked like clockwork, because sometimes there are times when things were not finished in time.

More control over the class and less posters and presentations.

Give us less work.

You need to control the class more.

No boring readings.

We could have discussion circles. It can be disrupting when people argue during teaching lessons, so a way we can limit that is to have a discussion circle.

I think that this class is already one of the best classes that I have ever taken.

I do not think this class needs to be improved.

This class can be improved by students listening more, sometimes people talk too much and don’t listen to Mr. Ferlazzo.

Let us debate more.

MY ANALYSIS: Student comments echo the two areas where I have also been feeling a need to improve — a need to provide more structure to class debate/discussion and a need to rein in a few overly talkative students. Neither are huge problems, but clearly I need to do something about them both. Today, I had some individual discussions with students on classroom management, and I’m confident about handling that. I’m less clear on the best way to provide more structure to student discussion/debate, and am interested in hearing ideas from readers.

4) What grade would you give Mr. Ferlazzo as a teacher? What do you think he does well? What do you think he could improve?

Half the class gave me an A or A+; the other half gave me a B or B+

Here are a few comments:

You could be more creative in the work you do.

Your work is fun to do.

I think you do well at everything. I don’t know what you could improve on.

I think you could improve on not wasting a lot of paper.

You are very flexible and understanding. As for improvement, I believe you should be more strict and not take so much “bs” by some students.

You’re intelligent and you give recognition to students. You make me feel better about myself and my stance in your class. I think you should not take so much from students who disrespect you.

You speak a little slow, but you’re okay (I teach my Beginning ESL class before TOK)

You could improve on giving instructions.

I think you could improve by having more control over the class.

You’re bad at explaining what to do. But you’re funny and understanding.

MY ANALYSIS:
My two takeaways on working a bit more classroom management and also on providing instructions. I need to be clearer, and put them down on paper.

5) Are there ways you think that what you learned in this class will help you in the future? If so, what are they?

The Ways of Knowing will help me in the future to get to know the truth instead of assuming.

I liked learning about doublespeak and manipulating language. I think I can use that in the future.

Yes, all the topics. Like the science stuff and presentation.

I think this class has helped me on my thinking skills.

Yes, the ways I look at things will be different.

I learned how to prepare presentations in a very short time and this will help in the future.

The way of how I view life.

Yes, especially ethics. Thinking more about right and wrong will help me think about the things I do.

MY ANALYSIS: The answers to this question are typically the ones I’m disappointed in the most.  I have tried regularly to highlight the practical aspects of what we’re learning, but, as usual, I need to explore ways of doing it better.  It’s not that the responses I share here are bad — it’s just that they’re less specific than I would like, and that many other students didn’t really write down anything.  All suggestions are welcome.

And, of course, I invite any and all feedback.  Look for summaries from my other classes soon….

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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