Thursday, November 30, 2006

just call me Mr. 96.7%

Student evals are back, and 96.7% is what I've got for the term-- ratings from six classes, most of them good, one of them outright bizarre (I think it was from a Japanese student who didn't quite understand the Korean on the form).

It turns out that my supervisor and I have two different ways of calculating the average. I simply total up the points on each sheet (35 points possible; the system's been changed so that a "7" is now your maximum score for a given item, and we're rated in five categories), add up all the points from all the sheets, then divide by the number of sheets times thirty-five. My supervisor averages each class, then averages those averages (i.e., she adds the averages together and divides by the number of classes to arrive at her final rating).

The disadvantage of my supervisor's method is that it collapses all the ratings in a large class such that each person's rating counts for less than the rating of someone in a smaller class.


Let's say that I taught Classes A, B, and C. Class A has one person; Class B has five people; Class C has ten people.

Let's say I received the following scores:

From Class A: 10 out of 35 (10/35)
From Class B: 34, 35, 35, 35, 32
From Class C: 35, 35, 32, 33, 35, 35, 35, 35, 34, 33

My supervisor would do the following:

Average of Class A = 10/35 = 29%
Average of Class B = [(34+35+35+35+32)/5] = 34.2/35 = 97.7%
Average of Class C = (sum of points/10) = 34.2/35 = 97.7%

Average of averages = (29 + 97.7 + 97.7)/3 = 74.8%

Luckily, the above situation has never occurred. But it could! If I taught class drunk and naked, my nakedness alone would guarantee me a 10 out of 35, and I could end up Mr. 74.8%.

If the above student ratings were calculated my way, the results would be substantially different because the lone student from Class A would be counted merely as one person out of a total of sixteen. When the calculation's done my supervisor's way, that lone person's score is given the same weight as the collective output of Classes B and C, respectively.

Check it out. If we calculate my way, we get:

Total points for Class A = 10
Total for B = 171
Total for C = 342

A+B+C = 523

523 divided by 16 (total number of students, regardless of which class they belong to) = 32.6875

32.6875/35 = 93.3%

See the difference?

But my supervisor's method can also work in my favor, as it did today: by my calculation, I have a 96.6%; by my boss's, it's a 96.7%. Since her word is the final one, I'm not going to complain.

The student comments on the eval forms were, overall, nothing new. Most of them were good; I typically get a lot of "interesting/fun class" and "explains things clearly" and "works hard for students" and "shows an interest in/understands Korean culture." As I suspected, though, I got some bitchiness from my bad Level 3 reading class, though it wasn't as severe as I thought it would be: the grumbling was primarily focused on the difficulty of the reading material. Bah-- childish nonsense; I plan to ignore the complaint and will continue offering material I consider appropriate for Level 3.

My general rule is this: eval forms are like a canary in a mine shaft: if ten out of twenty students have the same complaint about you, you're obviously doing something wrong. If, however, a particular complaint appears only once out of twenty eval forms, you've got nothing to worry about: the student's subjective reading doesn't represent the majority opinion. So far, I've been lucky that way-- no one particular complaint has hounded me across my year-and-a-half history with Smoo. (You can interpret this phenomenon negatively: I've made a large variety of mistakes.)

I did hear one disturbing thing from a student today, and it wasn't about me-- it was about a teacher from across campus. She claimed that this teacher only conducts class for five or ten minutes, then dismisses the students. Otherwise, this person spends time sending text messages in class while the students do their writing assignments.

I mention this problem knowing full well that at least two teachers from that side of campus are aware of my blog and are, perhaps, in a position to do or say something. However, I want to make it clear that I have very strong feelings about teacher solidarity, because teachers often take a lot of shit from the students beneath them and the bosses above them. We need to stick up for each other. At this point, having heard only one testimonial, I can't make any judgements, and to be honest, I'm inclined to give that teacher the benefit of the doubt. I'm certainly not planning on investigating this; I generally have nothing to do with the department(s) across the way, and can't see this as an urgent issue, especially at the tail end of the semester. I note my student's complaint mainly because, if it's true, it is pretty disturbing, and it doesn't represent professional conduct.

Assuming there is a problem, I think it best that the matter be settled among the teachers first, without it having to float upward to management. I told my student that she should gather her courage and ask the teacher directly what's up instead of judging right away. This is what I demand of my own students. I can't stand finding out about a complaint through third parties.

And that's about it for my gripes and grumbles. I'm off to shop for more materials for my last two jjong-parties. My 9:00am Level Ones will be getting a rib-sticking Amurrican breffus tomorrow morning.


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