A Student’s Evaluation of my Teaching

Last semester, as many of you know, I was teacher of record for a course, Introduction to Christian Scriptures, at Baylor University.  There was an enrollment of 60 undergrad; all but one were freshmen.  I have reflected already HERE , HERE, HERE, and HERE on my teaching.  In hindsight, now, with the semester behind me, I can honestly say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career!  I thoroughly enjoyed my students, and it seems they did me as well.  It was a good class . . . they were always willing to engage, press, and investigate things deeply (sometimes when we were pressed for time . . . . but their genuine interest is a teacher’s dream!).  This may sound sappy, but I actually miss them.  I never realized how emotionally invested one can get with a class and students.  All in all, I feel quite good about this experience; teaching is intuitive to me.  Two Baylor faculty members who observed my class also said the same. 

But, perhaps the true litmus test is what one’s students have to say, especially anonymously.  Now, I will be receiving student evaluations in the coming weeks, and I am quite eager and excited to see them.  There is, however,  an unofficial website associated with Baylor that allows students to post evaluations of professors.  I wanted to share one (the only one there so far) one of my students posted about me:

A young, funny, an extremely intelligent teacher, Anderson is one of my favorite teachers I have had in all 13 years of schooling. However, his work load is one that will cause migraines for even the most diligent students. Whether you want to or not, you will learn in this class. His tests make sure of that. The average for the first test was a 64. Each day are reading assignments from the textbook (usually 5-25 pages), NOAB (3-10 pages), and the bible (3-30 chapters). As you will soon find out, unless this is your only class you are taking, it is nearly impossible to complete all of these for each class. What I learned to do is to definitely read the textbook pages, ignore the NOAB pages, read SparkNotes of the bible passages, and take notes as if your life depended on it. Good luck! 

The latter part is of course subjective, but I will admit my course was not a cakewalk.  Nor do I think it should be.  I said at the beginning, and often, the refrain “this is college, this is different than highschool.”  But if I am going to be critiqued on anything, requiring my students to work is something that doesn’t bother me!  (N.B. I don’t relish the fact this student opted for sparknotes on the biblical text.  I intentionally cut the reading assignments down and chose a reasonable textbook so that the majority of their time would be spent in the text; I will hope and trust this is an isolated incident!  But even as we think back to when we were all students . . . remember, we all practiced “academic triage,” choosing what is and is not important and adjusting accordingly). The first few lines of this evaluation, however, were tremendously rewarding.  In my initial outing as teacher of record, for this student I have already earned the accolade of being one of her/his favorite teachers they’ve ever had.  If you ask me, that’s pretty cool.  I feel good about this; quite good.  And I look forward to receiving my official Baylor evals soon.

Hope you all are well!

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9 thoughts on “A Student’s Evaluation of my Teaching

  1. Julie Morris says:

    At the university I work at in CA, we are always hoping/searching for quality faculty who have a heart for undergraduate education. Freshmen and transfer students struggle coming directly from high school or community college- as you could see, they need faculty who care! The disparity between the reading and studying required and the lack of study and analytical skills they got from high school to rise to the
    challenge of university level work is cause for continual frustration. Some of our faculty avoid freshman classes like the plague out of fear of poor course evals.
    Keep caring and congrats on the great feedback!

  2. John Anderson says:

    Thanks, Julie. Interested in hiring me?!?! (wink).

    Jason: That’s Professor Anderson to you, buddy (wink). But seriously, I view part of my task in working with undergrads as helping them to jump into the deep water with someone who will work with them and help them . . . and throw them a life raft occasionally. I just see myself as preparing them for the next four years of college.

    • Julie says:

      Truly sir, after you’ve lived in Waco and experienced housing prices there, amongst other great things about living in Texas, I can’t fathom why anyone would want to relocate to CA. I do work for UC San Diego, and if you ever are in the area, let us know. It’s a great campus, and the faculty I’ve met and worked with are outstanding.

      It’s funny – we are itching to move to Texas or a midwest location, and folks around here think I’ve got a screw loose. Just born in the wrong state!

  3. anummabrooke says:

    One thing to try to “stay ahead of” if you’re going to teach a high-workload course: the likelihood that students will be telling their other profs, “I didn’t get your homework done because I was busy with Prof. Anderson’s homework.” If this becomes regular, one can begin to draw the ire of one’s peers. (My own colleagues have been very good about it, but I’m sensitive to the danger.)

    I always tell the students explicitly, “Expect to spend at least X hours/week on my course. If you are spending at least X hours/week on my course, and still not getting the results you want, *come see me*: don’t carve time from your other classes and blame me for it.” It doesn’t totally solve the problem, but it’s a start.

    Congrats on positive evals!

  4. John Anderson says:

    Brooke, that is helpful, thank you.

    In talking with others, and in my own experience, it seems to me that this type of comment is endemic to undergrads, especially freshmen. That isn’t a judgment on them, but I do very much think college is going to be hard work and so I should help them learn how to do so. If it’s more than was done in HS, then it’s a lot of work. But I do think my course was managable. Heck, I even completed the writing assignments along with them to give them a physical example of my expectations; I was doing the homework too! ha!

  5. Jason says:

    John, er, Prof. Anderson: It’s certainly the case that profs that neither expect nor require hard work from their students fail themselves as educators. While I appreciated the occasional easy class, I always benefited from those profs who held us to a higher standard of learning. Those classes had the most impact on me. I think that’s part of the reason I’ve wanted to work on a Ph.D.

  6. David Melvin says:

    It seems to me that students have a weird way of defining “a lot of reading” when it comes to the Bible. Virtually all of the reading assigned by Dr. Burnett in his CS classes are from the Bible or the short intros in NOAB. You can count the number of secondary readings on one hand. And the biblical readings are not long…usually a few chapters. Yet students are constantly complaining that it is an “insane” amount of reading. I’d really like to see what kind of reading they have for their other classes. And I’d like to see what they would call the reading from Bellinger’s OT Theology class!

    But hey, at least this student liked you in spite of your being a task master.

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