After all, in any class you teach, you set out with specific goals in mind. The evaluation should ask whether those goals were accomplished. As I read through the form that I had given to my students over and over again, I felt that I should try to make some adjustments to reflect my personal teaching goals. I wish I had thought to do this more than a couple days before I needed to have them filled out, but I still think I have a decent first level modification. You can download it here.
I haven't actually read their responses because I haven't graded their exams yet. This is something that I do more for myself than for them. As a matter of avoiding the appearance of impropriety, I don't want to give students the chance to perceive any undue influence on their grades as a result of their comments. I doubt this makes any difference in their responses, but I know for a fact that I can wait a week to find out what they said.
I'm just going to go from top to bottom and describe why I'm interested in their responses to various questions.
I borrowed the first couple questions from the CTD form, but I think they're wasted questions. How often students attend lecture is a reflection of the professor and not me. Also, by the end of the quarter, the students who are completing the evaluation are almost uniformly those who least frequently.
1) Aaron is easy to understand (both in speaking and writing).
There seems to be a recurring theme when people find out that I'm going to teach math. "At least you speak English." For some reason, it seems like lots of people have had bad experiences with TAs who struggle with the English language. However, my purpose for asking this is because I know I have a tendency to move really quickly through material. I am consciously aware when I start thinking faster than I can talk and when I start stumbling over my words. I also know my handwriting isn't always neat. It's generally legible, but I still want to keep track of these things as I continue to teach so that I don't become lazy about it. In retrospect, this should have been a 1a) and 1b) type question to isolate the the two parts.
2) Aaron has encouraged student participation.
There's a subtlety here that I think most students will catch. The question is whether I encourage student participation, not how successful I am at it. I've had some classes that are basically unresponsive no matter how I try. However, I think that students can see when you try to reach out to them and when they fail to respond.
3) Aaron has made the class more understandable.
This is an important marker for me. Students can often tell the difference between understanding something (or at least being in an illusion of understanding) and when they are going through rote motions.
4) Aaron has taught me how to think about the problems instead of just giving me the answers.
Most of my section time is filled with giving away answers. 90% of the time is spent doing some part of a homework problem. I want to know if students feel like I'm teaching them instead of just doing homework on my own. A more interesting question might be the following: I learn to think through problems as Aaron presents them instead of just copying the solution from the board.
5) Aaron has been helpful and accessible during office hours and via email.
This is a pretty standard availability question that could have been broken into two parts like #1.
6) Aaron managed section efficiently and effectively.
I believe that this is an area of strength in my teaching. I am very time conscious and I try hard not to go beyond the 50 minute section time. I also try to get to as many questions as possible in the allotted time. In my mind, this is more of a personal check-up to make sure that my perception doesn't deviate too far from the students'.
7) If given the chance, I would choose Aaron as my TA for my next math class.
This is the big picture question. Have I done well enough for them to want me to do it again? This allows the students to boil everything down and think through what they think is important and tell me if I'm meeting those educational needs. When it occurred to me to ask this question, it made me wonder why it wasn't on any of the other forms from the CTD.
I neglected to ask a couple things on this form:
- Aaron treated the students respectfully and ethically. (Taken from my Standard Syllabus)
- What could Aaron have done better? (An open-ended question to allow students space to comment on whatever they want)