A few weeks ago I got my evaluations for a course I taught last semester. Here are my reflections. First, given there were only 5 they should be taken with a grain of salt! They were very positive which was quite encouraging. They aren't always...
I was particularly encouraged that students noticed and appreciated several things I worked on and increasingly emphasise.
- Giving the big picture and trying to put everything in that context.
- Having a good textbook [Ashcroft and Mermin, in this case] and following it closely.
- Making order of magnitude estimates.
One student pointed out how my treatment of semiconductors was not as clear at the earlier material. I agree! This was the first time I had taught that part of the course. In contrast, most of the other material I have taught 5-10 times before. Some of it relates closely to my research and I have thought about deeply. This shortcoming also reflects that I am still not comfortable with the semiconductor material. I can "say the mantra" of how a p-n junction works but I still don't really understand it. I am not surprised that the students picked up on this.
Over the years I have co-taught courses with colleagues who have varied significantly in experience, ability, enthusiasm, effort, ...
I have noticed that my evaluations correlate with those of my co-teacher. Students make comparisons. If I co-teach with an experienced gifted teacher students are more critical of me and my evaluations go down. On the other hand if I co-teach with a younger less experienced colleague or an older colleague who has no interest in teaching my scores go up.
The take home point is not to get too discouraged in the former case and not to let it go to my head in the latter case.
The evaluations also seem to correlate with the ability, background, attitudes, expectation levels, and motivation levels of the students. Do they see me as an ally or an adversary? Given what I have observed during the semester I am usually not too surprised by the evaluations.