Teaching Evaluations

Classes end this week. Finals are next week. Another semester is drawing to a close. How did I do? I’m optimistic, but the summary of my teaching evaluations won’t be available for a few more weeks.

Figuring out what to teach, the order of the topics, and how much time to devote to each took two semesters. Aside from a few tweaks here and there, that’s all settled. My goal for this semester — my third teaching the same class — was to be more interactive.

Ages ago a couple of county extension agents got real with me about the shortcomings of the programs I developed. They explained the need to add activities, games, and videos to make programs easier to teach and more interesting to the participants. I’m forever in their debt — and they know it.

Over the years I’ve accumulated hundreds of educational activities. Some were created by others and used as-is or adapted to meet my needs. Most are my creations. Adding one to almost every class made this the best semester yet.

Students would likely pick blind taste tests between national brands and store brands as their favorite. We did two: cocoa puffed cereal one day and chocolate chip cookies another. Neither turned out the way I’d hoped — the national brands won — but a good time was had by all.

Rupurdy — my bastardized version of Jeopardy to review for exams — was a huge success. Each of eight self-selected teams received a whiteboard and markers to record answers. Teams had to respond to every question. Daily doubles (as many as five) and extra credit for the winning team kept things interesting.

Students really got into it and didn’t mind at all that, due to challenges keeping score and judging, everyone got extra credit. After playing the game, I posted the questions and answers as a study guide. With very few exceptions, exam grades improved dramatically. Little wonder. The questions come straight from the exam.

Will student evaluations reflect the difference between this semester and last? Probably not. Students rate instructors from 1 (sucks) to 5 (fantastic) on a bunch of different questions and can add comments.

The nearly perfect score they gave me last semester leaves little room for my average score to go anywhere but down. A huge drop would give me pause, but otherwise, I’m not concerned. The comments are always helpful.