Monday, December 29, 2008

Course evaluations are awesome.

So, I got my first set of evaluations from the course I helped teach this past semester. It's a big organic chemistry course required for entrance into the professional school, so the students are pretty driven to succeed (which can be a good thing and a bad thing when teaching them such a difficult beginner subject). There were ~280-300 students in the class, and about 260 of them responded to the course evaluation survey (we give a little bit of extra credit for participation in that, it seems to work). Overall, I got a good grade from the students. Most of them strongly agreed or agreed with positive statements about me, and most of them gave me an A or a B when asked to grade my teaching performance. So quantitatively, I did okay for my first experience teaching a subject I have never had a class in to 300 people!

The written comments were the best though. Overall the most common response to "What was the best feature of Dr. X's teaching?" was something along the lines of "She went at a good pace, was easy to follow, explained things well and her notes were really helpful." However, my most favorite responses were:
  • "Her facial features. She is probably the most beautiful teacher I have ever had."
  • "HER HOTTNESS (two T's)" **(sic--"two T's" was NOT added by me, lol)
  • "She's much better looking than Dr. Y. She also goes slower"
  • "she's pretty damn hot"
  • I was not a student in her lab **(I did not teach lab--I lectured to them in class for about three weeks)
  • "Honestly I do not really remember"
  • "meh"
  • "I really liked how she taught in lecture. I felt she taught the class like we were stupid and had no clue about what she was saying, which really helped me make sense of what I had read before class." **(is this a good thing or a bad thing??)
It was also amusing how even though the positive comments tended towards the "pace and explaining were good" theme, the negative comments were overwhelmingly about how I would take the overhead away before everyone was done copying it down and "pace was too fast and you should explain things better" (even though we barely made it through my allotted set of subjects, and even had to skip a few things, because I was going pretty dang slowly in reality). I think what I really need to do (and that some of them noticed and suggested) is to balance the lecture topics better, to not drag through the beginning stuff so that we have to fly through other things at the end.

Having such a big class can be really hard, but it also makes for much more amusing evaluation responses because everyone feels more anonymous. I had a really good time reading these, and I think I did learn a lot from them--I'll have to see how the themes change over the years, and hopefully I'll always get a few reinforcing my own inner belief in my "HOTTNESS."


Professor in Training said...

Haha - congrats on your excellent evals ... and on your hottness!

My favorite eval comment was (and this is a direct quote with only the name changed to protect the innocent):


Anonymous said...

Did you use chalk board or PPT for the class room instruction?

Congratulations on getting the good evaluations.

Anonymous said...

May be you can suggest some strategies for this question.......

Anonymous said...
I have been reading some of the postings for a while now. What are these foundtaion grants that are reffered to? I know that there are some foundations for cancer cure etc. How do we find some foundations for organic synthesis related work?
Would appreciate the input from all of you profs. I am planning for gong in to the job market soon so thought of acquainting with some of these, and get ready. It is pretty scary at the moment as I heard Henry Dreyfus etc have cut their new faculty awards. How is it going to be if you do not have good start up packages due to the bad economy, and at the same time grant agencies are not showing their money either. What is the strategy that you would suggest for beginners? Is it NSF career awards or NIH NI awards that are easy to target?

Thanks in advance. Merry Christmas to one and all.

December 25, 2008 10:31 AM
Professor in Training said...
Anon: I'm a physiologist and don't know the first thing about organic synthesis or how/where to look for funding in that field. Your grad/postdoc mentor(s) should be able to help or check out Odyssey's blog as he's in the chem field and has NSF funding.

As for the best strategy for beginners ... I'm also a new investigator and am getting a lot of excellent advice from people like Odyssey, DrugMonkey & PhysioProf. The bottom line is that grants are extremely difficult to come by right now and you need to submit as many quality applications as possible.

This is definitely NOT a good time to be on the job market but it's typical to have to justify the cash you want for start up money - if a school wants you to do research, it's in their best interest to provide a solid start up package otherwise you're doomed to fail before you even begin. Trawl through DM/PP's blog as they have some excellent tips for applying, interviewing, negotiating etc.

Massimo (formerly known as Okham) said...

Congratulations, you hottie !
In my case they never write "he's so handsome", but that is just because, by the time they are done filling out the first part of the questionnaire (very long), they run out of lead in their pencils -- it's clearly the one and only reason. I have already asked the administration that in the new forms comments come first...

Arlenna said...

Haha thanks all!

Anonymous #2: Sorry I don't have any very specific advice either--even though I am originally a chemist and teach organic chem, my research and funding are way more biotech-related than organic synthesis. So I have been pretty lucky with the NIH. But the kinds of foundations I've been looking at have been the Kimmel Foundation Scholar award, the Beckman Young Investigator awards, the Amercian Cancer Society and Damon Runyon foundation, and things like that.