Course Evaluation Data and Information

for English 511: Theory and Research in Composition

Fall Semester, 2011

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 also 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 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.

If you're interested in reading my scholarly perspective on making evaluation data public and reflecting on it, see Anson, Chris M. "Dis/Closure: Transparent Formativity in the Evaluation of Teaching." "Keep Doing What You Do": Assessing the Teaching of Writing. Ed. Amy Dayton-Wood and Karen Gardiner. Forthcoming.


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). Note: as of 2011, the University has eliminated two earlier questions from the form, one on the effective use of technology and one on how intellectually challenging the course was.


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 useful feedback.
7. The instructor consistently treated students with respect.
8. Overall, the instructor was an effective teacher.
9. The course readings were valuable aids to learning.
10. The course assignments were valuable aids to learning.
11. This course improved my knowledge of the subject.
12. Overall, this course was excellent.

Average of all questions :



What these numbers are telling me: For this iteration, I restructured the course and substitued a lot of readings. The course now has a much stronger historical emphasis in the first part, providing students with a clear sense of the field's early work and subsequent development. Each week then focuses on a specific area of scholarship highly relevant to teaching writing. Work by some authors, e.g., Elbow, also echo the development of the field over time, and three articles by Richard Fulkerson about the field itself, published every ten years, also provide retrospectives after each third of the course. I added more support for the annotated bibliography and research proposal, and provided more guidelines for the student-led discussions. One innovation this year was the addition of a pecha kucha presentation--a rapid-fire, five-minute presentation about the research proposal that consists of 15 PowerPoint slides that auto-advance every 20 seconds. Students had to rehearse these carefully and provide effective visuals to support what they said. The presentations were fabulous, and reminded me that sometimes students will put more energy into something that "counts" for very little as long as it's shared with others and prompts intrinsic motivation. Some students commented about the amount of reading, and I'm ambivalent about this issue. On the one hand, I think the amout was quite fair--even, perhaps, lighter than some courses at the graduate level. On the other hand, for those brand new to the field, the readings can also be somewhat challenging. I'll have to think about whether to trim any next time or provide some brief overviews to help them get through the tougher ones. Overall, I'm generally satisfied with the scores, perhaps with the exception of #2, which puzzles me given my encouragements to see me and/or contact me outside of class. I've been using screen-capture to provide oral response to students' written work, and a couple of the comments suggest that this method is working well.


Anonymous Written Comments from Students (from the evaluations):

Note: I have included all the comments, along with my general reflections along the way. Narrative comments were provided in three sequenced boxes (instructor, course, other) that have been consolidated for each respondent.

Excellent professor who got the most out of our class. Seldom lectured at us, but always worked to guide the discussions and explain those necessary issues. Kept us focused on course objectives. Great feedback - especially the on line screen capture. Excellent survey course. Like most survey courses, its a little bit about a lot - so the 'once over lightly' aspect of the course is in its design, not its teacher's preference. A lot of reading, but well selected and I would get rid of none of it. Only wish there were more composition courses to follow on to this, particularly true cross disciplinary courses - e.g. cognitive psych/english; 2L education/english; etc. . . maybe there are and I am just not aware. But this course sparks a great deal of interest in a wide variety of subjects, few of which can be contained solely within the English Department.

Dr. Anson has so much knowledge about the field and is a great resource. Within the class I fell like there were time when he could have directed the discussion more, but I also see the value in leaving it up to the class. I thought the course went really well. I feel like I'm leaving with a better sense of the field, important scholars, and research I think the class gelled pretty well together, and while there were differing opinions, everyone was respectful and thoughtful. I really liked the case studies and would have enjoyed reading more.

[Yeah, I've realized that's a stylistic issue--I don't like to control and manipulate the discussion, but simply to keep it focused and on track.]

Dr. Anson is obviously an experienced and enthusiastic teacher. He is open to students' different points of view and treats everyone with respect, almost as if they were his colleagues rather than his students. He has a great amount of knowledge and experience in his subject, and it was a pleasure to have a class with him.The only weakness might be the amount of reading - all the readings were useful and interesting, but I found that I had more reading in this class than in any other (and I'm taking two literature courses!). I don't know if that can be changed, though, and still retain the incredible level of subjects that I think we all were learning about for the first time.

This is one of the best classes I've ever taken. The amount of reading was a strain sometimes, but it was immensely valuable. Useful additions to the class would be a chronological list of the articles read and a brief review of them and main ideas towards the end of the semester, as well as at least one or two class periods devoted to practical matters: looking at sample syllabi, assignments, and lecture strategies. We did some of that throughout, but it would help to have a set time for tying it all together.

[This is a great suggestion that I'll incorporate into the course next time.]

Dr. Anson is a great teacher. The scenarios he generated prompted lively discussions. His classroom is relaxed yet serious. I learned a lot. My main complaint is that it was hard to keep up with the readings with so much to read and write in my other classes as well. But the course is well-structured and well-planned. And the instructor's easy-going approach combined with his mastery of the territory make ENG 511 an excellent course. Thanks, Dr. Anson.

The professor is comfortable and affable. Very responsive to students' ideas. Also, very helpful in answering questions about assignments. The course is very informative and covers a broad range of topics. Provides as close to a holistic understanding as can reasonably expect. Reading assignments seemed to be selected with great care: covered a lot of seminal material. Enjoyed the class and the professor very much!

Overall, an effective instructor. Was receptive and helpful to students and genuinely interested in the topic. A little more guidance in some of the class discussions may have been necessary at times, though. The paper assignments helped to provide some practice with genres that are important to composition theory and research, but may have been unfamiliar to students with a standard English background, which was helpful. However, sometimes the readings were a great deal of information that didn't translate fully into the classroom.

Instructor was extremely enthusiastic and helpful. I thought the course was well designed. The assignments were a useful way to learn more about the course topics. The instructor also offered substantial, useful critiques when grading the assignments. Class discussions were usually helpful and the laid-back atmosphere helped generate more discussion. However, class readings were extremely long, which would have been fine had they all been put to use. Instead, sometimes the readings would never be discussed. Perhaps instructor could offer guides ahead of time which detail what he expects students should get out of the readings or maybe point to useful concepts in the text which might be otherwise missed.

[Good point; a few readings got short shrift because of time, or the choice of a student discussion leader not to focus on one of them. Will think of ways to deal with this issue.]

Wouldn't it be great if we could do this using Jing? We would need some sort of voice modulation software, obviously, but it would make things a lot quicker. Dr. Anson is one of the most personable, respectful instructors I know. This class was a real change of pace, as the discussion seemed to be one among colleagues rather than among students and their instructor. I do wish he had been a little more authoritative at times, as speaking rights were sometimes given to the loudest person in the room. The course's greatest strength can be found in its discussion-oriented format. It gives students a chance to interact with the material on an intimate level, and, perhaps more importantly, to leave the material and embark on a tangent that they find relevant. Because this class is designed to teach students how to employ pedagogy, it's important that the discussion go to places that the students feel is helpful. The one issue I have is (wait for it...) the amount of reading. I understand that there's a lot of research on the subject. I understand that it's all important. However, you have to make content fit form; when you teach 2 semester's worth of reading in 1 semester, students will stop reading and mentally check out. These are so hard to write because one must consider a variety of audiences. For example, do I use second person? When I do, am I talking to Chris, or to "you," department administrative type? I feel like Chris would probably engage more actively with the intricacies of the content in this sort of review, but, as it is also an evaluation of him (you), should I not write to the ones (you) doing the evaluation? Maybe I should just go back and retype it all with my eyes closed.

[On the discussion issue: clearly, a few students were apprehensive about being drawn in when they weren't ready, and I chose to deal with that around midterm when I reported on the anonymous evaluative midterm comments some people made; even then, they didn't come out of their shells, and I chose to use more subtle ways to draw them in than cold-calling. They still chose to be less participatory, but were clearly very good at listening/processing. Consequently, some people just seemed more verbal ("loud?").This is a perennial issue in discussion leadership, one of the most pedagogically challenging dimensions of teaching.]



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