Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Course Evaluations are In

So I got my first course evaluations for the discussion sections I taught in the fall. On the overall I took away the message that I really do need to be more careful about being clear be more carefully prepared and do more discussion and less working of problems. Of course I actually got more complaints to the effect that I wasn't doing enough homework problems than complaints that I wasn't doing the discussion well. But the complaints that I was not working enough homework problems were completely groundless since I was in fact doing almost nothing but working homework problems. It requires much less preparation to show how a few homework problems are to be worked than to prepare a real discussion.

I think my first semester of teaching went less well than it might have but I think it has made me a better teacher. I was a much better discussion leader towards the end of the semester than towards the beginning. Partly because my discussion sections were held at 7:30 and 8:35 in the morning I lost a great deal of the people in my classes. Since there were more evaluations than there ultimately were students attending the discussions I am pretty sure that some of the more negative reviews of my teaching were from people who came two or three times and then never again. I'm eager to see how the discussion sections I will be teaching in the spring evolve. Hopefully the classes won't go from not very full to barely there. Of course there will be some natural attrition since a large number of people will decide that the discussion section is not worth their time no matter how good it is. Unfortunately I won't really be able to productively compare the sections I will be teaching in the spring to the ones I taught in the fall since I will be teaching 2020 discussion sections instead of 2220 sections. Very probably the attrition rate in the algebra based physics (2000 series) is going to be higher than the calculus based versions (2200 series).

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