Wednesday, January 07, 2015

what am I to think? (about student comments)

What am I to think when the students' comments don't match the evaluations?

Here's what the kids from the class that gave me the lowest evaluation had to say about me, plus some very rough translations:

1. 없다. No comment.

2. 교수님 성향자체가 굉장이 밝은 사람이란 점이다. 학교에서도 일부러 밝은 사람을 더 뽑으려고 하는 것같다. The professor's got a brilliant disposition. The school seems to be trying to pull in more brilliant people.

3. 교수님이 좋음. The professor is good.

4. 학생들이 수업을 이끈다. The students lead the class.

5. 학생들의 위한 수업. A class for (needed by?) students.

6. 자신 스스로가 강의를 만들어야 했어서 신선했다. The students had to craft the lectures themselves, which was refreshing.

These are generally perceptive comments. Not a whine among them, except maybe for comment #4, and that one's iffy.

In looking over the comments I received from my other classes, there was only one complaint, and it was the typical moaning and groaning about the number of assignments. Otherwise, my comments were fabulous! What the fuck, guys? Out of nearly 80 students, only one bothered to lodge a complaint, and the compliments I got showed a disarming perceptiveness about what I was trying to do that is most decidedly not reflected in my eval score.

Anyway, I may as well put up the rest of the comments. I've come this far, right? The above set of remarks came from my Monday/Thursday intermediate class—my first class of the week. My second Monday/Thursday class had 12 students, only 10 of whom filled out evals, and only one of whom bothered to leave any comment at all, which was a bit sad. But the comment was:

교수님과 학생들간의 소통이 원활했습니다. Professor/student communication was smooth.

Not exactly high praise, but at least it indicates I was getting through to somebody.

Here's what my worst-performing class, my Tuesday/Friday intermediates, had to say:

1. 수업을 언제나 즐겁게 할 수 있었고, 배우는 입장과 가르치는 입장 모두에서 영어를 배워서 새로웠습니다. Class was always pleasant, and seeing things from both the teaching and learning perspective was an original experience.

2. 에쎄이 과제가 많아서 영작 능력이 조금은 향상된 것 같습니다. Because we had so many assignments, my English-composition ability seems to have improved a bit.

(And that, folks, is the lone complaint. Not even a complaint, really, is it?)

Finally, my wild class of advanced reading/writing students, also a Tuesday/Friday crowd:

1. 학생들이 직접 수업을 진행한다는 것이 인상 깊었다. Having the students lead the class directly left a deep impression.

2. 교수님이 재밌으셨다. The professor was fun.

3. 학생이 강의를 직접 해서 영어 회화 기회가 많았다. Because the students led the lessons, there were many opportunities to converse in English.

4. 교수님께서 지루하지않게 수업을 이끌어가주셔서 감사했습니다. I was thankful that the professor did the lessons in a way that wasn't boring.

5. 교수님이 재밌었다. 수업방식이 우리가 직접하는 방식이어서 처음에는 준비하는 것도 많고 에세이도 매번 써야해서 귀찮았지만 점점 재밌었고 우리가 직접 참여하게 되어 더욱더 많은 것을 배운것 같다. The professor was fun. The class's method was that we made the lessons ourselves, and at first this was a pain, having to write essays, too, but little by little this became fun, and I think we participated (well) and learned a lot more.

6. 여러 학생들과 친해질 수 있는 수업 분위기가 좋았다. A class atmosphere in which all the students could get acquainted was good.

So: not that many students commented, but the ones who did had only good things to say, even the ones who sounded vaguely as if they might have been complaining. A good portion of the students who commented got what I was going for: getting the kids to lead the class and learn a bit of maturity and responsibility.

Going over the comments has been reassuring, especially after yesterday's body blow. I still don't understand why the comments were so good while the eval scores were so mediocre, but I guess we'll just chalk that up to the imponderable complexities of the Korean college student's soju- and cigarette-addled mind. I'm a happier camper today.

ADDENDUM: There was another section of the eval screen devoted specifically to "how to improve the class" remarks, but most of the students apparently chose to withhold comment. The general thrust of these remarks (as made by those who bothered to respond) was the opposite of the compliments listed above: "We want more direct guidance from the teacher" and so on. Korea is a low-trust society, and some of the students don't see themselves as able to convey information competently, nor do they trust their classmates to follow a lesson plan. I'm actually rather proud of my charges for having worked as hard as they did, and I don't feel that these complaints are that important. The learners themselves don't realize the benefits of the student-centered approach, mainly because they've been brainwashed to believe that all information must come from an experienced authority figure. Nonsense, I say.



Anonymous said...

Addofio here:Nonetheless their "improvement" comments might give you a hint on something you could do to improve your scores in future. That is, not only do they need to be benefitting and learning from your method, they need to perceive that they are doing so, and that important information is not being somehow withheld from them because of it. Perhaps if you let them know that if they are missing something important or going off the rails in some other way, you'll catch it and correct it that would reassure them? And assuming you already do this--maybe highlight it just a bit more.

The other thing that occurs to me is you could reflect their own learning back to them more prominently and specifically--not just "good job" but "You all now know/can do X, which is important for Y" or some such. Again, I'm sure you give them good feedback already, so this is more about making it more prominent. This one would fit nicely with the individual meetings you intend to have.

Thinking of it from students' perspective, they are used to having a person in authority firmly leading them (by the nose) and disseminating presumably important information to them. Putting the reins more in their hands may leave them a bit insecure and worrying that they may not be learning what they should be learning. That's the perception you want to change.

In any case--good luck. If you stick it out, my guess would be that in a few semesters you'll have a good reputation among students and your evals will reflect that accordingly. I know every time I changed institutions, my evals dropped and then went up, while I was (I thought) doing things pretty much as I had before; but I did need to adjust for different student populations.

Kevin Kim said...

Undoubtedly, I'll be making some changes. But I do already try to get the students to see what they've learned and what they can do now; perhaps I will have to emphasize that even more, since a disappointing number of them just don't get it.