Friday, April 03, 2015

initial feedback: honeymoon period

I'm requiring my students to do consultations with me this semester. They have to do three of these at some point in our sixteen weeks together: one during the Week 1-5 period (which just ended today), one during the Week 6-10 period, and one during the Week 11-15 period (Week 16 is final-exam week, so it's too late to have a consult then).

I've just tallied up the student reactions which, for the most part, boiled down to "no complaints" or "I like this class." One student loudly proclaimed me the best teacher at Dongguk University (perspective: every expat teacher gets this compliment from at least one student every semester; there's a sort of "groupie" psychology at work, which Koreans might call jeong as a way of expressing their warm feelings toward their professor). The same student loudly announced, to the embarrassment of her classmate sitting next to her, that her classmate thought I was cute. I bowed hapjang style (palms together, like a monk), slapped my belly unsexily, and thanked the blushing student.

We may still be in the honeymoon phase: I expect the fangs and claws will start to show themselves after midterms. Technically, almost everyone has a 100% right now: the only grades I've given have to do with attendance, homework, participation, and the first project, and these are all "easy hundreds." The second consultation is going to be a lot more interesting, as I'll have the chance to talk with the kids about their grades, and about what they can do to salvage them after the coming disaster of midterms—which is when we really start to separate the men from the boys. Hovering above us all, unfortunately, is the specter of the stupid grading curve, which mandates that only 30% of the class may receive "A"s, and 70% may receive "A"s and "B"s. Out of a class of 19 kids, that means only 5 students may receive "A"s. In my small class of 15 kids, that number drops to 4.*

Here are a few highlights from my student comments. I'm not including anything that's only barely positive, like "all OK" or "no complaints." You're seeing only the highlights:

"I like working in teams."
"I enjoy group work."
"Very satisfied."
"I like the round robin."
"I like the EAS class!"
"Lecture is good and fresh." (Whatever that means.)
"Teacher is humorous."
"Best lecture!" (I wish they'd stop calling it a "lecture.")

"I want to teach something other than grammar." (A reference to round-robin teaching.)
"Learning vocabulary is difficult."
"Textbook is boring." (Yeah, yeah, whatever. This sort of complaint is inevitable.)
"I need to learn more grammar to make correct sentences."
"I want to speak more fluently!"
"I'm shy when speaking."
"I have trouble understanding the textbook." (Another student said the book was easy.)

So that's it. That's 15 comments out of 72 students. The remaining 57 comments were all of the "everything's OK" or "no problems to report" variety. As I said above, the second consultation is going to be much more interesting.

*The computer system won't round up for "fractions" of students. In a class of 20 students, 30% of 20 is 6. If there are 19 students, 30% of 19 is 5.7. There's no such thing as seven-tenths of a student, so the computer just lops off the fraction, and the number drops to an even 5. For a class of 15 students, 30% of 15 is 4.5, so we drop the 0.5 and are left with only 4 students.


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