Course Evaluation Data and Information

for English 455: Literacy in the United States

Spring Semester, 2009

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 third time that the newly-approved course, "Literacy in the United States," has been taught at NC State (I have been its only instructor so far). 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. Like the second time, this semester the enrollment was higher than in the first year, which created a greater workload for me as I juggled the various service-learning logistics. This is also the first time the course has been required of English Education majors, a factor that can sometimes affect student evaluations. Once again, I sensed that the students felt they were asked to do more than in a typical course because of the tutoring requirement--and I have held the course to typical standards for three credits. I eliminated the oral presentations (based on research projects) this time, which opened up some sessions toward the end and allowed for a better pacing throughout the semester. There was one disgruntled student in the class for whom nothing we did really worked well--he put himself intellectually above the other students and was dissatisfied with our class sessions. I suspect his scores account for the slight difference this semester from the scores from Spring '08. Still, given the complexity of this course, the extra tutoring requirement, and the fact that it's now required for Education majors, I'm fairly satisfied with student's overall impressions.

Anonymous Written Comments from Students (from the evaluations):


"I believe Dr. Anson did a phenomenal job of incorporating technology into the course - the best I have seen thus far at NC State. He was also extremely receptive to our feedback as his students as well as our feedback on what we were learning. He provided a very safe and open-minded environment where we were able to share our ideas and perspectives on the literature without feeling as though there was a "right answer." I also appreciated that his demeanor in class was always positive and professional. It was obvious he was excited our
education in his classroom and enjoyed our feedback and discussions."

"I believe that providing us with articles, rather than a textbook, was extremely helpful because we were able to learn about the different aspects of literacy from different perspectives. As well, incorporating field study in the form of tutoring is an excellent way to show students how to give back to their communities and how to make real life applications to what they are learning in class. I enjoyed contributing to the wiki as well - the first time I have ever been asked to do that instead of a project, and I think it was genius."

"I grew as a learner and as a teacher - because I learned a lot about how I can improve the literacy of my future students. Dr. Anson really worked hard to make sure we learned something in his class. The class-lead discussions on the articles we read as well as all the fun group activities he had us do at the beginning of the semester, brought a different aspect to a college classroom that I truly appreciated. And those activities I will certainly use in my future classroom."

"Very enthusiastic and receptive to students. It was apparent that he is very energetic about the class and enjoyed teaching it. I really liked that he was always very helpful to students and always kept us informed on what was going on, especially through emails. He would also send us emails if he saw something interesting that he thought we would all like, which showed a lot how he truly cares about his students and his subject matter."

"Overall, Dr. Anson is a fine instructor. He definitely knows what hes talking about, and brings a wealth of useful information to the class. Hes very technology forward in his approach, and tries to improve the course based upon feedback from the class--I really appreciated this. The structure of this course was not like any other I've experienced thus far at State. It was very interactive, and gave room for individual thoughts instead of memorization and regurgitation. I would like to see a bit more instruction on some of the issues especially starting out with the foundations of literacy but for the most it was a great course. Overall, the course was very engaging."

"Dr. Anson is knowledgeable and definitely connects with the subject. More importantly for me he's relaxed and comfortable and created a good environment for the class. I felt comfortable speaking in class and participating in the class discussion because of the way Dr Anson approached the class each day. I felt in control of my own learning which is a good thing. Not very strict which is good most of the time. The assignments had kind of loose dead lines which is really great for some assignments and not as great for others. The loose structure lends itself more to the material being taught though. Anson was more concerned with learning and with us relating to the material than deadlines I think."

"He teaches in a way that you wouldn't know he's teaching you anything at all. But later you realize you learned something and you look back and think, wow. . . he's good."

"He's very technologically literate, and incorporates some interesting technology into the classroom (like the wiki we've been working on, and he provides feedback on our papers via technology)."

"It is evident that Dr. Anson has a great deal of knowledge and passion for literacy, which is a great thing! I learned so much from the reading assignments and then I saw those topics in the the readings occur before my eyes as a tutor (ie. bottom-up reading). That was exciting to me. I also am much more aware of the ways people use literacy and the different types of literacy we can use. Dr. Anson was always very informative and stayed on top of his students about assignments and new information related to the course. There were no weaknesses about the instructor in my opinion."

"Dr. Anson was excellent. I certainly think of him as a superb instructor and an effective researcher. I truly took to heart all feedback I received from him on my assignments and value his expertise on the subject of literacy."

"Dr. Anson is a fair and democratic instructor. He has been incredibly flexible as regards to project due dates and timelines, always putting students' needs first. It is apparent that his main goal is to team up with his students in order to help them succeed. He is one of the most humble, distinguished professors I have met at NC State! I believe this course should be required for all English Education majors. It offers a wonderful mix of reading/literacy theory with a service learning application. The "traditional" papers and other writing/research assignments were fresh and different from the old academic fare, yet still highly challenging and engaging enough to analyze and apply what we've learned. I've gotten some great ideas to take into the high school classroom and the tutoring/service learning component was a positive, life altering experience. I would recommend this class to anyone, education majors or not."

"I would be delighted to nominate Dr. Anson for an Outstanding Teacher Award. Dr. Anson is one of the most accessible professors I have had at NC State. He is always available and responds to his students within hours (if not sooner) of their needs or requests. He is amusing, engaging, helpful and sympathetic; but he is also incredibly smart and keeps abreast of the newest technology, learning/teaching theories, and content related to his field. It is apparent that his classes are ever evolving and that he continues to be learner as well as teacher."

Things to work on:

"I would suggest that perhaps make more defining deadlines for it, like having a certain number of entries by certain dates that gradually allows us to fulfill that requirement (it was unclear on how much would be considered enough)."

This is an excellent suggestion. The wiki was assigned as a series of entries all due by the end of the course. Assuming students would stagger their work on this was shortsighted of me; having due dates (a date by which a wiki entry of any kind would be due) would still offer flexibility but would sequence students' work over time.

"We would receive emails at least every other day and because of the frequency of them, they sometimes lost their value or importance."

Well, it's always difficult to find a balance between communicating too much with students or not enough. Many emails were about course logistsics--due dates, tutoring issues, etc.--but I also sent interesting links, news items, and other information when I thought they were relevant to the course. Perhaps those became too cluttered, and it might be worth shifting some of them to a minute or two before a class or placing them at our course wiki.

"It would help if stronger connections, through assignments and structured discussion, could be made between tutoring and class time." And also: "I felt there was at times, a slight disconnect between our outside-class activities (such as tutoring with CIS), class readings, and class time."

This is a perennial problem in the course, because some topics in literacy (schema theory, eye movement studies, statistical analysis of literacy in the U.S., etc.) are not directly connected to the tutoring and really can't be unless they are done so purely speculatively. The academic content of the course sometimes wars with the pragmatic dimensions of tutoring, and that's just a fact of the course. However, it may be possible to incorporate a little more attention to the pedagogy of tutoring, even though this is covered on-site and in the guest presentations made by Communities in Schools program leaders.

"All the assignments [but the wiki] are great. I've learned while doing each one. I've come away from both papers feeling like I've accomplished something and really connected with the material. The tutoring was amazing. That was the best part of my whole semester. I learned more about myself and teaching in those tutoring sessions than I learned in any other class. I like the course structure. I feel like I've learned a lot. Drop the wiki."

This was the first time I used a wiki in this course, and although this was the only comment that recommended dropping it, it deserves attention. The wiki is designed to provide a cumulative (cross-course) repository of information on literacy. Students had to place six items in the wiki in different categories (a book, an article, a tutoring strategy, an Internet resource, etc.) and write an explanation/annotation of it. As noted above, there were no due dates for any of the items, so some students let the requirement languish until a couple of weeks before the end of the course. Duh! Should have seen that one coming. That's an easy fix, of course. But I think it contributed to students' sense that it didn't serve a strong purpose. If no one can read or use the wiki entries because they're coming in so late, they have no function in the course. Next time, due dates will be staggered through the course and we'll actually take a minute or two to go to the entries in class and look at what's accumulating. --CA

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