Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking Responsibility

responsibilityIn Encouraging Ownership from Ideas and Thoughts, Dean Shareski  shares,

“After every course I teach I receive an evaluation from my students. Typically 80% or higher provide with highly positive feedback. 10% are indifferent and 10% are less than satisfied. Most of the dissatisfaction revolves around lack of structure and timelines. This is partly my personal flaws and partly student preference and partly a communication failure. I take these evaluations seriously and don’t dismiss these critiques but really do try to improve.”

This really hit home to me because I’ve only been teaching on the university level for the past 7 years and the evaluations from the students still really hit home with me. In fact, I was just sharing this with my husband that I wish all of the evaluations would come back positive but every year there are 1 or 2 (out of 6-9 students) who are not happy with my class. I know I need to learn not to take it personally but I can’t seem to get past that.

I guess my biggest problem is that they seem to just complain but they don’t make any suggestions for what would make it better. I want my class to be a great class for everyone who takes it so that they get great value for the money they are investing. Hopefully they will learn great teaching strategies to make their classes more successful.

Unfortunately since this is a graduate class, there are certain requirements necessary for them to meet in order to pass the class. I go over the syllabus and I even put all of this on a wiki so that it is easy for them to access on their phones. Meeting deadlines, writing accurate reports, and punctuality are part of their grade in addition to the formal observations I do. Yet, they don’t seem to put the same effort into their paperwork as they do their observations and are always surprised when their grade is not as high as they expected.

. I’m told that I’m too nitpicky by expecting their reports to be written without spelling or grammatical errors even though these reports go home to the parents. Everyone was given the rubrics I use to evaluate the lesson plans and the classroom observation but when I don’t give credit for something not seen, it is obvious that they haven’t looked through the rubric ahead of time.

I take these evaluations seriously and each year I try to improve them so that the class is better each year and I think I have done that. I know that I won’t be perfect in anyone’s eyes because that is impossible but I’m such a perfectionist. But I resent that the students give negative feedback to me when it is their lack of taking responsibility which causes the problem.

I had a great principal that reminded us not to come to him with just complaints. If I have a problem, I needed to offer a possible solution. If I didn’t have one, I needed to discuss this with my colleagues and try to come up with one. He might not use the solution but it encouraged dialogue and problem solving.

I wish the evaluations would add questions like:

Did you have a problem in the class? Did you discuss it with the professor? Did you suggest a way to solve the problem?

The answers to this might have more impact and validate negative feedback better.

I also think that as professionals, we should not be giving anonymous evaluations since the evaluations are sent to professors after the grades are already turned in. I think if we are going to say something positive or negative about someone, we should be willing to stand behind it and give our names.

But this is just my opinion. What is yours? Please share.

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