Thanks for your thoughtful and candid responses to my mid-term evaluation. I got 20 responses, which is a pretty good response rate. If you didn’t respond yet, I hope you will.
You generally gave me good ratings and I appreciate that, as well as the suggestions and criticisms. I will respond to some points in your feedback here. I don’t plan to take up class time with this discussion, but I welcome any of you do come and discuss in my office or before or after class.
In fact, I encourage more of you to come discuss questions with me. A few of you said you were unsure of expectations for the projects or presentations. Please come discuss your projects with me. A few students would have done better in their presentations or mid-term media exercises if they had discussed them with me in advance. Most students understood the assignments and did well on them, so I know they were not inherently unclear. But if anything is unclear to you, I would be happy to discuss in my office.
I take it as a good sign that 11 different classes received votes as your favorites and that six different classes got multiple votes. The two classes with the most votes (our discussion of banned books and the discussion of media coverage of 9/11) were classes where I varied off the syllabus and we had a spontaneous discussion heavily rooted in your own experiences. I will certainly need to cover the material the class needs to cover, but will seek to provide a couple more opportunities for those kinds of discussions. We’ll have a short discussion of that nature Tuesday, when we discuss media coverage of Ebola.
You gave the guest speakers high ratings and four of your favorite classes involved guest speakers, so I will watch for opportunities to bring in other guests (starting with Thursday’s class, of course).
Some points came up in your comments from multiple students, so I will address them briefly here:
Three of you raised questions about being unsure what to take notes about. One student wanted “to be told when to take notes.” This comment might reflect a freshman’s transition to college. I don’t want to be completely dismissive of this concern, so when I plan a lecture, I will prepare a few slides summarizing key points. Or I might prepare a lecture outline or a post covering some key points for the class blog.
But you also have expressed your appreciation for covering material through class discussions, which will not lend themselves as well to such tidy summary by me. The fact is that I can’t tell you when to take notes. The purpose of notes is to aid your memories, and you know what you already know and what’s new. You know whether you are helped better by notes with great detail or by notes that just highlight key points. Part of your college experience needs to be developing study skills that suit your own needs and learning patterns. Part of your college experience is to learn to listen in class and distinguish between key points and between examples that support or illustrate those points.
In addition, I have encouraged you to ask questions, so you are welcome to ask what’s important during any lecture or to ask for a summary of key points in any lecture or discussion.
Three students also raised this issue, expressed by a student who suggested I “stick more to the book.” I’m glad you’re reading the book, but this comment also might reflect a freshman’s transition to college. I see any text as a supplement to the teaching. I’m not going to stick to the book in any class. I’m going to teach what I think you need to know in the way I think it should be taught. I will and should overlap some with the book, but I also will and should offer my own experience and insight, which you can’t find in the book. I think as you take more classes, you will find that books supplement teaching more often than they dictate it. They always do in my classes.
If you see conflicts between what I say and what the book says, please raise them in class and I will address them. But the extent to which I address different points than the book is intentional. We need to cover a lot of ground in this class, and I can cover that ground more efficiently by minimizing duplication between classes and the book.
How are you doing?
One student wanted frequent quizzes, to have a regular idea how you’re doing in the class. Another student raised the same concern (without asking for quizzes). That’s what the mid-term is for, so you should all know now how you’re doing. If you wanted an earlier idea how you were doing, you could have chosen an earlier date for your presentation, but no one did. I’m not planning any quizzes.
One student wished I’d “go into a bit more depth on the material.” That’s simply not the nature of an intro class. We cover a lot of ground in this class, but not in great depth. You get greater depth in advanced classes where you bore in on a narrower topic. A key purpose of your presentations and projects is to require each of you to go into greater depth on two projects.
Another student commented that you thought the projects and presentations were “weighted too heavily.” I think and hope you will find as honors students at a university, especially those of you majoring in communication, that your own research, writing and production will weigh heavily in your grades. And it should. I’m not going to change the weighting for the projects and presentations, but I’m happy to discuss with you.