Student Response and Evaluation


Student evaluations are always a gut-wrenching time for nearly everyone, I think. It forces you to look back over the semester and, if you’re like me, it’s the things that feel like glaring errors that stand out. Since returning to the classroom in 2011, however, I have been able to see the evaluations more clearly for myself as a thermometer for how things went and ways in which I can improve.

Beyond the official evaluations, I ask students to write me a letter answering questions I pose about certain assignments or class activities—to let me know what works, what doesn’t, what they loved doing, and what they found to be of no benefit at all. As with the official evaluations, there are always outliers, and I do my best to take those into consideration.

Between the two forms of evaluation, however, I find a great deal of extremely helpful feedback. Sometimes I think something that is going to be fantastic falls flat, and other times I find that the students love and benefit greatly from an assignment that I was unsure about. After each semester I compile the student comments from both the official evaluations and the reflective letter, looking for both the good and the bad, and I look over the syllabus and course design to see how my goals and objectives lined up with their experience. Then I tweak.

Below are some of the comments I have received on the official evaluations, both complimentary and critical. Due to student comments, I have revised both assignments and my teaching style, making an effort to be quicker about getting back grades and to be more organized in managing the classroom. I think that taking this positive spin on evaluations has helped me become a better teacher overall and I will continue to use them for insight into how to better serve my students and help them attain their learning goals.

Student Comments

(From official, anonymous evaluations)

Personally, I think all of the readings were necessary to the course. It really helped you move along and understand how the process works. Writing isn’t just writing. The works were there to help and reinforce the idea and it also let us know that we are not alone in our struggles to sit down and put fingers to keyboard. (Fall 2011) ~ This was exactly the reason for the readings, so it was gratifying to see someone not only listened when I said this, but that my reasoning made sense to them.

The instructor was very approachable and gave good and honest feedback that will help me in the future. I am very glad I decided to take this course. (Fall 2011)

Have some more time in between the small groups and turning in our second essay. It seemed too rushed. Thank you for making it an awesome class! (Fall 2011) After comments like this, I changed the syllabus to space out the drafting assignments in order to give students more time to revise.

I greatly enjoyed the blogging. I wish we talked about it some in class though. (Spring 2012) ~ We now do discuss the blogs far more in class, not quite workshopping them, but doing something similar.

I really appreciate how modern the class was and how understanding you were as a professor. This is the first time I have had an English teacher completely tear up my paper. It was needed! Thank You. (Spring 2012) ~ I try to keep the class updated with the times: using blogging to attack expository writing and having a Facebook group for the class to communicate through and get to know each other better.

The personal narrative should be the second essay and the persuasive should be first. More time should be spent to try and help each writer find their own voice for the personal narrative. (Spring 2012)  ~ This was a great idea that I had not really thought about. My goal, instead, had been to let them write the “easier” paper first and delve into research later in the semester. However, after seeing a few people say this, I revised the syllabus so that we do the narrative later in the semester and this has been very successful. Students are more comfortable with me and with each other, so I am able to push them a little harder to construct more sophisticated narratives.

I liked this class. Even though there was a lot of writing required and critiquing due. It really forced me to push myself a little harder with my writing. I appreciated the feedback and everything I got from the teacher. (Fall 2012)

Loved the use of blogs and narrative paper. The exercises if used correctly by students were great, I really do feel like a better writer – something that I have never felt after an English course. Thanks! (Fall 2012) ~ This was after I had revised the blog assignment from feedback from Spring 2012. Students responded very well to the new blogs and the comment that this was the first time this student had ever felt like a better writer was one of those moments I wanted to be a teacher for.

The instructor is highly energetic, witty and intelligent. She occasionally goes on tangents but they are germane to the lesson. Her grading [timing] is sometimes somewhat uneven; because she juggles multiple classes, coursework for her own major and roller derby practice (!), contacting her is sometimes hit-or-miss. She does promptly return emails, though. She is willing to work with students if they have personal issues that interfere with coursework. Her discussions are often very frank and her criticisms can be blunt, but are packaged well so that the student doesn’t feel insulted or angry. Her comments are insightful and designed to generate discussion and reflection. She is one awesome lady. I would recommend her classes to anyone who wants a challenge and doesn’t mind pulling all-nighters. My only real complaint is with the course load–it almost seems excessive. (Fall 2012)  ~ My timing in returning grades is something that I am working on. Juggling my own class work has made that challenging, but I am aware that is not something that will change once I am a professor. To counter this, I have made certain to space writing assignments requiring substantive feedback out more and given both myself and my students more breathing room in grading and revising.

This is one of the best classes I’ve taken at VCU. The only thing I would recommend is that she instruct more on the readings instead of leaving it as open discussion for the class. I feel like more of her teaching would have prepared me even better. But, I enjoyed how much interest she showed in her students. You could tell that she really cared. (Fall 2012)

For those who are interested, the full evaluations for my courses may be found below.
ENGL 304 (Fall 2011)
ENGL 304 (Spring 2012)
ENGL 304 (Fall 2012)
ENGL 304 (Spring 2013 – coming soon)