As regular readers know, each year I have each of my classes evaluate the class and me, and share the results with my colleagues and on this blog — warts and all. By sharing the results, I find that I can get valuable feedback from others. In addition, since students know that I let other people know the results, I think they tend to take it a bit more seriously.
I’ve collected all my related posts at My Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers).
I’ve been meaning to post the evaluation results from my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Since the next school year is just around the corner, I figured it was time to make the time.
I love teaching this class!
In my other classes, I provide more of a survey form with multiple choice answers (along with space where students can write their own). With my TOK class, I prepared a sheet with five questions that they could answer in narrative form. I have uploaded the form here.
Here are the questions, along with some sample answers (in italics), along with a short commentary written by me:
1) What are the two or three most important things you learned in this class?
Don’t do things just because you are told to do them.
The elements of a good presentation
How to question information that is give to us by experts.
Not all truth is the truth.
To think critically.
The value of questioning paradigms.
That it’s important to distinguish causation from correlation.
How I can approach problems in many ways.
How I can dig deep into knowledge.
MY COMMENT: It seems to me that students generally learned what I had hoped they would learn.
2) What did you like about this class or how it was taught?
I liked that we were made to think a lot about many issues concerning the world.
The teacher was easy to communicate with.
I liked that the examples we studies were real life examples from around the world.
I liked that, instead of lecturing, the teacher had us give small groups presentations about lots of the topics.
I liked the relaxed atmosphere.
I liked that we had a class website with all the resources.
I liked how the teacher was gangsta.
The way it was taught wasn’t really helpful, it doesn’t remain in my mind.
MY COMMENT: With one exception, it seems that I was successful in making the class relevant and engaging.
3) How do you think this class could be improved?
The class was perfect.
Don’t waste a lot of paper.
Use less paper — be eco friendly! (many students wrote this)
We should work on the TOK essay and presentation earlier (several wrote this).
MY COMMENT: The comments on working on the TOK essay and presentation earlier were well-founded. This was the first year I was teaching the class, and my timing certainly could have been better. I’m just not sure what I can do about the paper, though. We have a TOK textbook, but only portions of it are useful, and I supplement it a lot with outside materials. We don’t have laptop program at our school, so we can’t go “paperless.” If readers have ideas, please leave them in the comments section.
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?
A+, but he needs to be more strict on due dates.
B+, he needs to improve his understanding of the subject more and stop killing trees.
A, he explains and teaches well.
A, he could improve on his organization, though.
A, but he needs to not extend due dates because it makes the students lazy (several students commented on this)
A, because he gives us candy
A+, because he does well in teaching things easily and understandably
MY COMMENT: I was struck by how many students actually complained about my being flexible about due dates. Since this was the first time I was teaching the class, I wasn’t quite sure how long projects would take. I also wanted to show understanding of the tremendous workload IB diploma candidates have in their other classes. I’d be interested in hearing reader comments on this.
5) Are there ways you think that what you learned in this class will help you in the future? If so, what are they?
Yes, don’t always believe say and everything is not always the way it seems.
Yes! How to think logically and it will help me think about things. It will help me through debates and lectures.
Yes, the skill to see past the truth.
How to write an essay and elements of a good presentation.
Yes, we learned how to look at things from different perspectives.
I learned ho to think differently to solve my problems.
MY COMMENT: I’m pleased with the responses.
All in all, it was a great class, and I can hardly wait to teach it again in the coming year!
Larry: Due date flexibility was something I built into the course I taught for the first time last spring, which also caused difficulty for my students. With hindsight and for next spring when I’m again scheduled to teach two sections of this, I’m going to use more fixed deadlines. I naively thought my students would appreciate this flexibility, but it turned out many used the flexibility to procrastinate more than they should have. There were extenuating circumstances, but I had several students take incompletes in the class and I think at least one of these could have been avoided if I’d used more rigid deadlines.
I’m a former IB-diploma student, and I’d actually tend to agree with wanting strict due dates–especially if they’re incrementally working up to a final project of some sort. I (and many of my classmates, I would judge) didn’t quite have sufficiently strong internal motivation to keep to suggested times to work on long-term projects by ourselves. Accordingly, keeping to official due dates (if reasonable) might have helped us structure our time better as well.
Also, let me say that no single HS class has served me better than TOK, and it sounds like your students are getting it.
I love that you shared this with the world. Teachers can learn so much from self-reflection and from the reflection and feedback of others. I love when students give us feedback that really helps improve our instruction in following years. I bet you are right when you say, letting your students know their comments will be shared makes them take it more seriously. Great idea!
Thanks again for sharing!
I’m a pre-service teacher, and in one of my classes this summer, the instructor continually extended due dates. For those of us who took the initial due date seriously, the extension seemed almost insulting–especially when our punctual work resulted in less than punctual evaluation from the instructor. In some ways, the extended due dates made us feel as though the instructor wasn’t all that convinced that the work was important. If the instructor feels that way, then why should the class care about the assignment?
All in all, though, the comments you received from your class were overwhelmingly positive, and I think you had a very successful year with them. I certainly wish I was given the opportunity to take a class like this when I was in high school!
On scheduling due dates, I’ve hit on this solution for the big projects with my Honors/TAG LASS classes: I lay out the project in overview format, define the specifics I want from them, then put a calendar on the screen and lead them through a basic critical path approach. Next, we validate that the milestones are reasonable for both content and timing. Then we finish up by figuring out when we can manage to have it all done. Once we are all done with that final step, the due date becomes set… unless the students come to me and tell me that can’t make it. Most of the time, though, once it is set, they come through as planned. I rarely have to meddle with what they think they can do.
Not the only approach, by any means.