Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Can't say I'm too surprised at my mediocre—possibly below-average*—evals from my Dongguk kids. I had braced for impact, and impact there was. While only a very small minority of the kids said they would not recommend my class to other students, I didn't exactly get a rousing endorsement from anybody, including from two of my favorite classes. This stands in sad contrast with how high-flying my evals were back when I worked at Sookmyung Women's University (around 96%), and with my currently sky-high evals from my KMA students (where I'd say my overall average is about 97%).

I still like my goofy Dongguk kids, and I recognize that a major factor in my eval scores is the kids' maturity level. I pushed them fairly hard, making them teach the classes, so of course they pushed back. I expect this is going to be the pattern from here on in, especially if I'm teaching class after class of the spoiled, lazy, and immature. That said, these kids were a pleasure to teach compared to the kids from my previous job (and those kids gave me higher eval scores!). The question, though, is whether my eval scores are low enough to get me canned. Dongguk's performance-evaluation standards didn't seem that high at first, but I'm still not sure I met them this semester. I might have to have a little conversation with the bosses before my current contract is up. In Korea, they never outright fire you: they simply refuse to renew your contract, which is a face-saving solution for both the employer and the employee: you can tell the world you quit, and no one will be the wiser.**

I did mention on this blog, though, that I would factor in how welcome I felt into my decisions about the future. Do I jump full-time into work at the Golden Goose, or do I continue at Dongguk and keep the Golden Goose as a once-a-week thing? I'm not sure. A so-so set of eval results doesn't exactly make me feel the most welcome, and I'm not about to compromise my standards and start coddling the kids just to get better eval results.

ADDENDUM: They say, for movie stars, that you're only as good as your most recent performance, so there's little use in my staring lovingly at my old Teacher of the Year award or lamenting my long-lost eval scores from years gone by. There's only my next set of KMA evals, and the student evals I'll be receiving in June or July.

*The evaluation results that were just published are the unadjusted numbers. In a week or so, a colleague tells me, the stats are going to be adjusted for various factors so that we teachers can be ranked. How average I am will depend on my ranking, I suppose. I doubt I'll blog whatever my ranking is, but I might mention whether I'm in the fat part of the bell curve, or in one of the thinner ends.

**During our orientation, however, one of our guides, who is also a course director, told us that people almost never get fired from Dongguk unless they've done something egregiously wrong. So we'll see.



John (I'm not a robot) said...

I can't help but wonder how big an impact your revealing grades prior to the evals had on the outcome.

Kevin Kim said...

Kick me when I'm down, why don't you?!

It's possible there was an impact, sure, but I have no way of knowing how much of an impact there might have been. The students might be lazy, but they can be shrewd and calculating when they want to be. From the outset, they know that only a limited number of them can get an "A," so you'd think they'd be honest with themselves and write their evaluations based on a clear-headed assessment of what grade they think they'll get.

My point is that, if most of them really know where they fall in the curve, the positivity or negativity of their evals ought to reflect that and really shouldn't affect my numbers that much.

But the lesson I learned is that most of these kids have a very inflated self-image. I plan to remedy that, this coming semester, by requiring all my kids to come see me at least three times for consultations about their grades, and for extra tutoring. We'll see whether that changes things.

Anonymous said...

Addofio here. I always found evals painful. No matter how many glowing comments I might get, the negative ones were the ones that registered. I was always tempted to blow them off, but painful as it was, I did learn to evaluate whether or not there was something substantive to them (sometimes there was, others not), and could I reasonably do anything to address the issue in future.

Of course, if you don't get comments, only ticks on a survey, that gives you little or no clue as to what students were reacting to (pardon the grammar), leaving you in limbo for addressing issues.

Kevin Kim said...


Good points. And with this survey, there were no comments at all, so as you say, I'm at sea.

I think we profs were given the option, at the beginning of the semester, of adding two or three extra questions to our surveys, including one or two open-ended comments-type questions (e.g., "Do you have anything more to add about the teacher or the course?"). I didn't take the option, mainly because I flipped through our faculty handbook and didn't find any questions that seemed particularly appetizing.

Of the five questions the students were asked, at least two of them had to do with aspects that were partly or wholly beyond my control, e.g., "Did this course help you with your major?" If I had a class full of Japanese majors who were taking this English course just because it was required, then obviously those kids would answer in the negative, which wouldn't help my score at all.

So yeah, among other things, I've got major issues with the design of the survey questions.