As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this semester I joined the College of Education at California State University, Sacramento, as an adjunct faculty member to teach credential candidates about teaching English Language Learners.
It’s the last eight weeks of the first semester, and will be the last eight weeks of next semester.
I knew that students would be asked to complete an online evaluation, which I would eventually see, but I also wanted to get more immediate feedback on questions that I cared most about. So, as I do in my high school classes, I asked my twenty-five University students to answer a few questions anonymously. I told them that I would share summaries of their responses with my university colleagues and post them publicly here, as I have done with all my high school classes for the past eight years (see The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)).
Here are the three questions I asked, along with summaries, quotes and my own commentaries on the responses:
1. What did you like about the class?
Many students commented on how much they liked being taught by someone who was currently teaching in a high school classroom, and who spoke honestly about what they might or might not use there.:
I liked the honest commentary by the teacher about real world teaching experience
I liked Dr. Larry’s honesty in what we will be using when we graduate and are working as a real credentialed teacher
I feel we got a more realistic idea of how relevant this information will be to us as teachers.
Many also like the many interactive instructional strategies I used:
We used techniques that we can in our classrooms instead of just talking about them!
I liked all the collaborative activities instead of just being lectured to
Everybody acknowledged my flexibility, and my willingness to have the class decide on due dates for the major assignments.
Everybody loved the fact that my wife insisted that I bring treats for students to eat during the break 🙂
2. What could have been improved in the class?
Many students felt like there were too many assignments for an eight-week class (in addition to writing short responses to reading each week, students had to complete a Case Study on an ELL student, an ELD class observation, record a short class discussion and provide an analysis of it, and develop an ELL-modified lesson plan) and felt that some, particularly the Case Study, had already been done in one of their previous courses (EDTE 170).
In addition, a number felt like it would have been better if I had provided clearer instructions for the assignments and provided more information and examples of them earlier in the course. In the context of that critique, also all recognized that this was the first time I was teaching the class and that I hadn’t receive some of the materials until the class was underway (I “inherited” the curriculum and the assignments).
Students commented that they liked the videos we watched. However, many noted that they were of self-contained ELD classes and not of mainstream classes with ELL students, which was going to be their future teaching environments.
MY COMMENTARY: I think all their critiques are valid. There is no question that my explanation of the assignments could have been much better – teaching a curriculum for the first time that had been developed by others, no matter how could it is, is a challenging situation. I’m not sure what assignments they had to do in their previous course, but all the assignments given in the class seemed like pretty important ones to me (I’ll be investigating further what assignments they had in their previous class). Eight weeks is a short time, and I understand there is some discussion in the university about the possibility of extending the credential program to three semesters to deal with workload challenges in all the courses. I am searching for better videos. In addition, I’m working with my University colleagues, who have been extraordinarily supportive and helpful to me, to get materials well in advance of next semester’s class.
3. What grade would you give Mr. Ferlazzo and the course?
There were two A+’s, one A-, three C-‘s, two D’s and all the rest were B’s or B+’s, so I think it’s safe to say the average was a B. Many students pointed out that they would have graded the course higher if I had been able to share some of the materials earlier, and they recognized that this problem was outside of my control.
MY COMMENTARY: A fair and, perhaps, generous grade. I’ve learned a lot from the experience, and am looking forward to the second semester. I also can see why so few active K-12 teachers can make the time to teach in an evening credential program 🙂
It sounds like they wanted you to do the assignments for them! Is it an assignment, or is it a recipe? And if it’s a recipe, do we learn more when we don’t have a glossy picture to go with it? 🙂
Looking forward to reading more of your tertiary teaching adventures!
Well done. I wish more teachers would be aggressive in eliciting feedback on how well they are doing their job. Thirty years of trying to master the art of effecting positive learning outcomes has convinced me that “their” honest feedback is the key to continuos improvement. I’ve found that most university students will be very forthcoming (often painfully) when asked. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues don’t value student feedback, convincing themselves that students are not qualified to evaluate the “professor.” So sad.