Critical reflection is a thoughtful and continual evaluation on the methods and contextual undertakings in the classroom that affect student and teacher relationships. It is a probe that attempts to get beneath the veneer of a common sense reading of the experiences. —Stephen Brookfield Soliciting feedback on my teaching is important to my development in the classroom. I distribute my own surveys both mid-semester and at the end of the course. Receiving feedback while the course is still in session allows me to make changes to the course structure and refine my own teaching strategies before the semester is over. In reviewing this feedback, I have found that students generally appreciate my approachability and willingness to meet with them, as well as my openness to hearing what they have to say. I will continue to cultivate my relationships with students by setting mandatory meetings outside of class, encouraging students to ask questions, and prioritizing their voices in the classroom. Additionally, they seem to value the engaging discussions I set out to foster. I accomplish this by connecting course materials to everyday life, helping students ask thoughtful questions, and highlighting a variety of voices in the classroom. I have fixed one critique, which was that my feedback to students about their work was not always very prompt. Students have also mentioned that they would like a more clear and organized structure during our class sessions. I have worked to remedy this by prefacing each class period with an outline and some learning goals for the day. I am also making use of visual aids such as PowerPoints, handouts, and writing on the board, so that students are able to easily follow along. The information below demonstrates my effectiveness as an instructor in the classroom.
Student Evaluations Introduction to Sociology, Instructor of Record, Five Points Correctional Facility, Spring 2017
Organization: "How well did the instructor organize the presentation of the material?" (1 = Very disorganized ... 5 = Well organized) Mean: 4.9, Standard Deviation: 0.27
Helpfulness: "How willing was the instructor to give help to students requesting it?" (1 = Very unwilling ... 5 = Very willing) Mean: 5, Standard Deviation: 0
Met Objectives: "How well did the course meet its stated objectives?" (1 = Poorly ... 5 = Very well) Mean: 4.9, Standard Deviation: 0.27
Workload: "How did the workload compare with courses carrying equal credit?" (1 = Much less ... 5 = Required much more) Mean: 3.9, Standard Deviation: 0.92
Teaching Quality: "How did the teaching skills of the instructor in this course compare with other college instructors you've had?" (1 = Very unfavorably ... 5 = Very favorably) Mean: 4.7, Standard Deviation: 0.47
Value: "The value of this course as a part of my general education, compared with other courses, has been:" (1 = Very low ... 5 = Very high) Mean: 4.5, Standard Deviation: 0.65
Overall: "My overall opinion of this course is:" (1 = Very low ... 5 = Very high) Mean: 4.9, Standard Deviation: 0.27
Selected Qualitative Feedback
What have you gained from attending this course?
"A sociological imagination. I now understand how social aspects of society help create the structure of institutions and dictate acceptable behavior for individuals."
"The course is very useful in helping understand the implications institutional structure has on individual choice."
"The urge to learn more about our social systems."
The aspects of this course I valued most were:
"The help provided by the instructor in understanding concepts, the group discussions, and the smooth transition between topics."
"The open class discussion, and how the professor allowed us to make our own interpretations on readings before giving us her perspective."
"The open/group discussions, conducting research interviews, and the freedom I was awarded to creatively approach my presentation."
"Each person in the class contributed to the discussion which increased opinions and broadened our points of view. We learned from each other and the Professor. The way in which the Professor conducted classes made for some of the most engaging discussions."
"All, this course gave me a lot of insight into society that I never thought of looking into. It was clearly taught, the discussions were really fun, and the energy was always really high compared to other classes that I've taken."
"Learning about the world's social problems. A lot of the world's social problems went on around me and I never understood them. Now that I have an understanding of them, I can not only do more about them, but I can be a better person..."
Improvements to the course (if any) should include:
"More visual aids for better notes."
"More working on the board."
"I don't see any. She hit every area as well as helped me how to write better and to structure my papers more."
"How do we improve upon perfection? I see no flaw in how the course was constructed. (Bravo!)"
"My Professor was fair and balanced, clear and concise, wise and well mannered; and, she actually engaged me with comments on anything I wrote. I felt appreciated."
"Ms. Griffin set the atmosphere from day #1 to be 'open'. I never felt as if my thoughts were overshadowed or taken for granted."
"I think she did a wonderful job as well as made the atmosphere of the class so comfortable. She made it her business to find out if anyone was confused. The conversations were excellent. She also asked us what would help her teach us better. Overall, she was very outgoing and respectful."
"The instructor was phenomenal, beyond excellence. Her time given to individuals was selflessly distributed, whether it was a struggling student or those who posed the hard questions."
"Ms. Griffin was an excellent professor who was always equipped for class discussion, and to better help understand readings."
"Ms. Griffin was one of the best instructors I had."
"This has been one of the best classes I have taken. I gained a lot of insight about sociology and our lives."
Introduction to Sociology, Teaching Assistant, Cornell University, Fall 2015
Section 1 (n=15/29)
Helpfulness: "How responsive or helpful did you find the TA?" (1 = Not at all ... 4 = Extremely) Mean: 3.60, Standard Deviation: 0.87
Teaching Quality: "How would you rate the quality of the TA’s teaching?" (1 = Extremely poor ... 5 = Excellent) Mean: 4.14, Standard Deviation: 0.83
Section 2 (n=10/20) Helpfulness: "How responsive or helpful did you find the TA?" (1 = Not at all ... 4 = Extremely) Mean: 3.70, Standard Deviation: 0.45
Teaching Quality: "How would you rate the quality of the TA’s teaching?" (1 = Extremely poor ... 5 = Excellent) Mean: 4.40, Standard Deviation: 0.66
Selected Qualitative Feedback
"Lauren did an incredible job of framing sociology topics within historical as well as modern-day context. She inspired me to further explore sociology courses at Cornell."
"Ms. Griffin was helpful in explaining topics, and she was very upbeat and positive all the time. It was a pleasure coming to class every day, very engaging!"
"My TA was informative and kind and she really helped spark interesting discussions which made sociology a lot more fun than I expected."
"We went over the lectures and reading with a lot of depth, had interesting and clarifying discussions. The discussion helped me a lot and I really enjoyed it!"
"Lauren was really engaging and she helped students view the selected readings from a sociological perspective."
"My TA was very helpful and approachable. She seemed to know quite a bit about the topics we covered. She was always willing to meet with us if we had issues. She was pretty good at getting the class engaged."
"The breakdown of articles read, distilling the 20+ pages into the really central idea behind each one and how it’s sociologically significant [was helpful]. Your explanations are extremely thorough and helpful in understanding the society we inhabit."
"The TA explained the readings well and clarified the main points. The presentations also showed the real life application of the concepts we were learning."
"I thought the presentations with the current events really added relevance to the class. It was a pleasure to learn with Lauren this semester."
"Very approachable and nice; gave good feedback; was able to answer and clarify any of our questions; tried to get everyone involved"
Observer Feedback Through my role as a Fellow with the Center for Teaching Innovation, I led teaching workshops to other graduate instructors at Cornell. Below is some feedback that I received from trained CTI staff observers:
Workshop 1 Articulates learning outcomes √ Uses workshop time effectively √ Facilitates discussions effectively √ Utilizes active learning practices √ Encourages participation √ Demonstrates good time management √ Communicates clearly and effectively √ Responds appropriately to participants √
I thought the presentation was broadly successful. The content was well planned, and the activities engaged everyone in the room. It was good to have people develop some critical analysis skills before designing their own learning outcome. The room was engaged, especially in the last activity. Your explanations and discussions were generally clear and you responded well to questions. Once you returned a question to the rest of the class, a nice and effective technique. A couple of times you nicely jumped in to add some substance to an answer given by your partner. In each instance you correctly sensed there was confusion in the room, helped solve the problem, and did so in a way that didn’t step on your partner’s toes or seem intrusive. In general, your facilitation contributed to the success of the workshop.
Recommendations for future workshops [paraphrased]:
Consider breaking down long activities into smaller parts
You might consider using examples from your own teaching/discipline to illustrate points
Put instructions for activities on a slide or on the board, not just on the handout, so they can easily refer to the guidelines as they go
Workshop 2 Articulates learning outcomes √ Uses workshop time effectively √ Facilitates discussions effectively √ Utilizes active learning practices √ Encourages participation √ Demonstrates good time management √ Communicates clearly and effectively √ Responds appropriately to participants √
You arrived early and were set up long in advance of the start time of the session. As students trickled in, you greeted them warmly and enthusiastically. This process went smoothly and you were able to start right on time. Students were set up in rows, but as soon as they started with active learning activities, chairs were moved into pairs and small groups. You shared you own learning outcomes for the session and a nice graphic of a road map of where you were going. You started with a think-pair-share on what participants thought a learning outcome was. This was good to figure out what they knew already. This worked well but felt a little rushed—one way to help avoid this is to give participants really clear time guidelines like “you will have one minute for this” and then actually set a timer on your phone to go off in one minute. You did give timelines later on, but I have found setting a timer helps immensely—especially with an alarm—we are very programmed to respond to alarms. Then there was a great discussion when people shared—good timing and great thinking on your feet as you both responded to the responses. Nice tag-teaming as you worked together. Good visuals to help you discuss this. When the large group was asked to critique this was difficult—still there were some participants willing to contribute to this discussion. You may want to give a minute to think and write ideas down before asking. Good use of wait time. I really liked the activity where the students got on the GoogleDoc and changed the flawed learning outcomes. Great discussion during this and comments for them was really good thinking on your feet. Don’t be afraid to critique when they make mistakes. There were a few places where there were mistakes still (e.g., two or more ideas in a single learning outcome, etc.) but there was a really good positive vibe and good feedback to groups. Well done!
Recommendations for future workshops [paraphrased]:
Don’t be afraid to point out errors
Be clear about the amount of time active learning activities are going to have and use a timer to keep you on track
Allow students a minute to think or write before engaging in large group discussions