Spring 2017 Semester Teaching Summary
2017: Photo provided by Mark Fitzgibbons of Fitzphoto of Duluth, MN, United States.
Happy summer, everyone! This post is being written a couple weeks since finalizing grades and wrapping up the semester at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD).
Upping the Responsibilities. This semester was a bit different from the Fall semester in that I went from teaching two courses to four courses (all different). The spring semester was busy but smoother because I was able to make some adjustments based on my notes and student feedback from the fall semester. I also started formally advising some of our majors this term, and I look forward to getting a few more in the Fall as well.
Connectivity. This semester was a great opportunity to start feeling even more connected to my students because I was spending a second and, in a few cases, a third class with many of them.
Student Evaluations. This Spring 2017 semester held some of my best evaluations yet, and I am very thankful that my students were able to recognize all of the intentional time, care, and effort into their learning. I wanted to share some of my favorite open responses to "What does your instructor do especially well?" (see the responses below).
It was a wonderful semester, and I am so thankful to have been a part of so many students' journeys. To end the post, I wanted to share a student's feedback that I got a good laugh out of...
Thank you! I tried... : )
... Yeah, because 37 of the 38 students who completed evaluations for me in the Spring 2017 semester would highly recommend me as an instructor to a fellow student, I guess I did do okay.
Thank you for noticing!
With this being said, there is always room for improvement. With my most difficult audience (the non-majors taking the class to satisfy a requirement), the student feedback was surprising very positive but still showed some contradicting opinions (e.g., too much in-class group work versus too little time working in groups). This leaves me to make sense of how to improve for next semester based on (1) their supporting and secondary comments and (2) my own notes and observations.
For me, I think I need to continue to work on having students talk to each other in a meaningful way. Here in Northern Minnesota, my students are often reluctant to speak openly with each other. This is part cultural and part generational.
Strangely enough, my students often independently tell me that they want to connect with their peers, but they do not feel comfortable doing so unless there is significant guidance from the instructor to do something that helps them bond and meaningfully connect beyond sharing only the bare minimum.
I will continue to work on this, but I will also, in turn, be clear in the beginning of the semester that they need to meet me halfway. I can structure more activities, but there will a good 20% of the class who will tell me in their feedback that they felt as though they were too far out of their comfort zones during small group and pair work.
It is about striking a balance and attempting to read the room.
Most students acknowledged that I made a good effort to get them to interact with each other this time around, but I still think this is an opportunity for growth.
Alright. That was a nice reflection...
Now, let's all have a wonderful (and productive) summer!