Course Evaluation Data and Information

for English 455: Literacy in the United States

Spring Semester, 2007

Prof. Chris M. Anson


Before you begin: I strongly believe that teaching well is a lifelong pursuit--an art to be explored and developed, and a science that constantly presents new challenges and opportunities for analysis and growth. As a teacher, I am very much a learner. I need to reflect on what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. Student evaluations are one source of information for me to reflect and improve. As such, I use them formatively, as information helpful in the improvement of a significant part of my professional life: teaching students and teaching other teachers.

But student evaluations can also have a more public function, displaying areas of my teaching that students find to be strong, and areas they find to be in need of improvement. Below, you will see evaluation data from the course and term indicated above, along with a bit of reflection from me about what I see in these numbers and comments. Please use this information responsibly. If you're deciding whether to take a course from me, consider what you see here not only as evidence of ability, but as evidence of my willingness to listen to your peers and improve my teaching in ways that respond to their justified concerns and needs. If you're a fellow professional looking at these data because you want to learn about or evaluate my work, please consider them only as one part of an overall plan for teacher effectiveness and a lifelong pursuit of excellence.

In some cases, where appropriate, I have included anonymously written comments from the students in the course. If so, I have created a kind of "dialogue" from some of these comments by interspersing my own (italicized) thoughts and reflections, and on ways to address specific concerns the next time I teach the course. By working on areas of concern, I can then match student opinions in future courses against those here to see whether the changes are having a positive impact on the course and on students.


The following chart shows each question on the NC State University-Wide Evaluation of Instruction form. In the first box after the question appears the weighted mean of the results for that question (based on a scale of 1-5, as shown below). 5.0 is the highest mean score possible (every student would give a score of 5 on that question).


Score of 5:
Strongly Agree
Score of 4:
Score of 3:
Score of 2:
Score of 1:
Strongly Disagree


Ave. Score
1. The instructor stated course objectives/outcomes.
2. The instructor was receptive to students outside the classroom.
3. The instructor explained difficult material well.
4. The instructor was enthusiastic about teaching the course.
5. The instructor was prepared for class.
6. The instructor gave prompt and useful feedback.
7. The instructor effectively used instructional technology.
8. The instructor consistently treated students with respect.
9. Overall, the instructor was an effective teacher.
10. The course readings were valuable aids to learning.
11. The course assignments were valuable aids to learning.
12. This course was intellectually challenging and stimulating.
13. This course improved my knowledge of the subject.
14. Overall, this course was excellent.

Average of all questions :



What these numbers are telling me: This is the first time that the newly-approved course, "Literacy in the United States," has been taught at NC State. I developed and taught a similar course at the University of Minnesota for about eight years. The course involves a service-learning component in which students must tutor young children in poor communities for a minimum of two hours a week for the duration of the semester. We reduced the number of hours after some initial problems getting background clearance quickly for the students to start their work; in the future, some of the rather complicated logistics of the course will be ironed out. Because the academic side of the course is rigorous, it's typical for students occasionally to feel overworked, and this is sometimes reflected in the evaluation numbers for the readings and the assignments (as it is here). The writing assignments are highly innovative and creative (a case, an imagined narrative or dialogue with one of the authors, etc.), so the somewhat lower score for those is no doubt an indication of the additional pressure students felt to do these in the midst of their tutoring and other class reading and preparation. Some comments also indicated that the readings were excessive, and this suggests a careful review of what's assigned. We used two books in the course, one of which was a hefty anthology of readings, and I felt compelled to assign as much as I could from it to justify its expense, though in the end we probably read about two-thirds of it. In future sections, I'll probably be more selective about the readings and place them on e-reserve, thus reducing the expense for the course and also fine-tuning the readings. The class sessions were often dynamic and engaging, and that may account for the higher scores on the "course" than on the readings and papers.

Anonymous Written Comments from Students (from the evaluations):


"AMAZING!!!!! knows how to teach, such a breath of fresh air."
"His knowledge and enthusiasm for teaching the course."
"Instructor was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable."
"Good instructor; always made himself available to students."
"Strong communication. Understanding. Fir. Easy to talk to."
"Very engaging. Very stimulating."
"Very flexible during discussions, letting the topic go wherever it needed to while still staying on point, which is a really difficult thing to do. Made class interactive so it was
was hard to be bored. He explained difficult material in ways that we could relate to. In general, he is an excellent instructor and I loved his class."
"The student tutoring was excellent preparation, and a great aid in understanding literacy. Dr. Anson did a great job getting us through all that."
"I had never considered literacy in the way I do after taking ENG-455. Absolutely love this course."
"Dr. Anson did a fantastic job."
"The instructor was great because you knew he was excited about teaching the course. Even if the subject material was slightly boring, he was
enthusiastic about teaching it which made it very valuable. Also, the instructor really worked with the ideas of the class and incorporated them in each
lesson. Great instructor."
"This course had more strengths than weaknesses. The tutoring programs that we were required to work with was such a beneficial experience that one may not have had in another course. That was a great idea."
"Awesome instructor! Great communication and feedback and was very fair. Loved him!"
"Would love to have Dr. Anson again."
"The instructor was amazing. He always provided useful feedback and was very approachable. I really enjoyed the class."

Things to work on:

"The only problem is that the work is front heavy, with most the assignments at the beginning of the semester."
"At first, there was a lot of work expected, and the tutoring added on even more, but the end there seemed to be very little work. It might have been better if the work load was spread out more evenly."

Good points. Because the tutoring got a very late start (for most students, we were into the third week of the semester before they really began), there was a lot of background reading in the course. As the tutoring kicked in, I reduced the amount of reading accordingly; but it felt a little imbalanced. Communicating with students before the semester and getting them to register to tutor will speed up the process considerably, and then a more even balance between readings/academic work and tutoring can be accomplished.--CA

"Maybe more quizzes (just one or two) to force us to read the text, or maybe just assign less text. However, I probably still would not have been able to read everything due to my current responsibilities outside of school. But that should not effect the class. The class should not change its level of difficulty based on my situation."

I did notice that on a couple of occasions, around midterm, some people hadn't read the material very fully. There were no reflection log entries due on those days, which reminds me how useful it is to have students write about the reading material, even if in a very low-stakes way, before coming to class. I'd rather use that log, though, to prompt more careful reading than impose quizzes.--CA

"The only real problem with the course is that the tutoring was hard to get started and that it did not always relate to the material."
" I found that most of the course readings were too abstract for students to relate to or be able to relate them to our experiences. The more current issues, such as the digital story-telling, and the writing test scenarios, were much more helpful and I got a great deal from them."

Right--another reason to rethink the nature, content, and amount of reading. Because we're "surveying" literacy, some material, especially the more educationally oriented (such as top-down and bottom-up models of reading, whole language vs. phonics, schema theory, etc.), will tie more closely to the tutoring experience, whereas other material such as the history of literacy will seem unrelated. This is going to be a continuing problem, but it might be helpful to have a sort of "strand" of non-tutoring related stuff that is admittedly and overtly less tied to the work, so we're not forcing ourselves to make links that aren't there or feeling that something's missing.--CA


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