Course Evaluation Data and Information

for English 624: Teaching College Writing

Fall 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 course is designed to provide practical and theoretical support to graduate students who are teaching their first sections of ENG 101 autonomously. As such, it's a course that moves between more abstract principles of teaching writing and very specific, classroom-based experiences and problems the TAs are having. There is a good deal of collaborative activity; TAs visit each other's classes and write up reflective portfolio entries on the experience. They do a reflective analysis of how they respond to and grade a set of student papers. They study one student in their class carefully and write a profile of that student and his or her progress over the course. The nature of the teaching portfolio, which stands at the center of their work, tends to lump much of the writing toward the end of the semester, when other pressures are mounting. Comments on that problem below suggest the need to rethink the sequencing of assignments, with stricter due dates for final material along the way. The numbers themselves are strong, with the typical lower scores for readings. "Explanation of difficult material" also came in somewhat lower than the other scores, but without further explanation it's hard for me to know what this means. Certainly, with so much pragmatic focus on classroom instruction, nothing should have been all that difficult to understand, especially in comparison to courses that focus more heavily on theory.

Anonymous Written Comments from Students (from the evaluations):


Having the TAs work together on projects seems really useful to me. By myself, I would never have created such a diverse group of assignments, but by collaborating with other students I feel that with slight modifications, the assignments I created were very educational for my students.

The flexibility of the course schedule helped us incorporate a few class sessions on topics that we had not originally planned on covering. It also allowed discussion of topics which cropped spontaneously up during particular class sessions. The presentations on case studies in progress was especially helpful in gaining insights from you and other teachers. The informal presentational situation facilitated constructive criticism and allowed us to think both about our particular cases, and about the case study document as a genre.

The largest help for me was the time devoted in the workshop towards creating the syllabus.

I really enjoyed the community atmosphere. We were all able to share problems and give feedback.

Fabulous course. I got everything I needed from it. The readings were terrific and very valuable both pragmatically and theoretically. I really enjoyed the chance to share what was happening in our teaching. Excellent.

Our weekly meetings were extremely helpful in addressing issues of teaching as they arose. I particularly appreciated the generous allowance for time to talk about those issues and brainstorm solutions or such, rather than cutting the conversations short to adhere to a strict schedule. Some of the conversations maybe should have been shortened, but overall the allowance for these conversations was helpful.

I liked the individual case studies we looked at. The spring workshop was immensely helpful.

The portfolio task was an excellent learning experience & boon to our own professional development. I always felt incredibly supported and loved also the "TA family" atmosphere that was further developed in our course. The website was quite helpful; I would have appreciated being directed to it more, having it be more of an integrated tool (ie submitting assignments or holding a discussion forum via a website makes us check it more, read links, etc., just use the clearly helpful tool more). I also appreciated yak pak & your consistent quick turnaround for feedback, which was always detailed and very useful.

Things to work on:

One or two of the portfolio entries seemed too located in 624 given that the purpose of the portfolio is to create a more public document. It might be good to cut one of the entries and substitute another "open" entry of our choice. [Good point. In many ways, the portfolio must be a sort of hybrid between a professional portfolio and a course-related portfolio, but clarity about which entries will be most useful for which purposes will help.]

I think that having individual components of the portfolio due throughout the semester would help TAs who are always busy and have a tendency to put things off until they absolutely have to be done because they spend so much time with their duties as teachers of English 101. It would take a good deal of stress off at the end of the semester. Scrambling to create finished pieces for the portfolio from parts and remnants of previously worked on documents is something that I would not have imagined at the beginning of the semester that I would be doing, but I am. If I'd had to have finished documents earlier in the semester, I'd be in a better position right now. [Right--making this a workshop course with no specific due dates for entries doesn't help procrastinators]

Beginning the course with deadlines for specific teaching portfolio entries would , I think, force students to stay focused on the portfolio throughout the semester. Those entries which can be done before the end of the semester should be due before the end of the semester. Additionally, a method of making them available online should be found-- Epsilen was unsatisfactory for this and a session on Contribute (or a similar program) might have helped. Although the book was helpful for the some of first few class periods, I felt like we had plenty of material for course without the Roen et al. readings. A few chapters or other essays could serve as back-up material, but the entire book needn't be purchased. [Well, there's so much useful information in the Roen, et al., collection that I hesitate to drop it just because the class doesn't read everything in it. It's a great teaching companion--something teachers should own whether they are in a course or not.]

Make meetings during the semester non-mandatory. I often felt like I was wasting my time by sitting in class and listening to my fellow TA's complain. [Well, I must disagree with this comment. The whole purpose of the course is to establish a community of reflective practitioners. Teaching shouldn't be an isolated activity, and especially for novice teachers, meeting and discussing problems, strategies, perspectives, and approaches is absolutely essential.]

I would've liked to have focused a little bit more on the practical issues of trying to land an actual teaching job. The teaching portfolio is designed to put us several steps in the right direction to that end, but I would've appreciated a more nuts-and-bolts approach to applying, interviewing, etc., to go along with the portfolios.

Sometimes I felt class discussion could be dominated by one or two people - particularly when we were discussing "issues" in the classroom. I enjoyed these discussions and found them useful, but a few times it seemed like people just wanted confirmation they had done the right thing. Which is fine - almost always we (as a class) agreed with their choice. But then the conversation would go on, or the next day the same person would bring up a similar concern...sometimes it got a little repetitive. I'm not sure what can really be done with that; as I said, I did like that we discussed classroom issues - but occasionally dominant personalities would take over. I suppose it just depends on the make-up of each year's group. Still - a relatively minor complaint. Overall the class was very good, quite useful. [There were a couple of prett vocal people in the class, but given the maturity of this group--M.A. students--my suggestion is, "speak up!"]

The course reading was so good-- I just wish there were more assignments to somehow put it "at the top of my to do list" without becoming more work than a pass-fail course should be assigning... perhaps each week, 1-2 of the chapter's mini-readings could be assigned to each of us, with each of us presenting our assigned mini-reading to the whole class. The presentations could only take up about 2-3 minutes per presenter, but excellent ideas, theories, and strategies could be best disseminated amongst the class. Further, feel free to take advantage of the close-knit community that the TAs typically develop-- by the time we take 624, we have worked very closely together for a year & can take on more tasks that involve us observing each other (taking an "observation challenge" for instance) or other types of collaborative tasks (this could bleed into portfolio tasks, such as collaboratively writing about a certain strategy). Finally, all your resources were so helpful to us teaching for the first time-- perhaps you could build upon these, offering a designated space for more concrete resources, and of course, really pushing the new wiki project so we as TAs can share the wealth of ideas! Overall, I loved the course-- loved the chance to discuss case studies & vent- I only wish I can continue to have such a set up in my future career. [Assigned reading, with reports/summaries, is a great suggestion.]


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