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Topic: CL and teacher evaluations
Replies: 9   Last Post: Nov 7, 1995 7:49 AM

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TPANITZ@mecn.mass.edu

Posts: 133
Registered: 12/6/04
CL and teacher evaluations
Posted: Nov 5, 1995 1:23 AM
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The following question was raised by Penelope Doob on another list. I thought it
would be appropriate to share it with this list and perhaps generate some
additional discussion on this topic.
Ted Panitz tpanitz@mecn.mass.edu

Penelope Doob asks about evaluations dropping when one starts using CL.
Penelope Reed Doob, Academic Director, CST TEL: (Office) (416) 736-5754 (Home)
465-8845 pdoob@yorkvm2
FAX: (Office) 416-736-5704 (Home) 416-465-2695

<<<I'm interested in learning whether there are any good studies casting light
on
the not infrequent anecdotal report that teaching evaluations by students may
drop somewhat when collaborative learning techniques and various kinds of
group work are employed/ required in situations where students have little, or
no, or bad prior experience working in such a way.>>>

<<Does this happen often enough to constitute a problem? Do the effects tend to
wash out by the end of a course? if there's a problem, has anyone devised
appropriate means of controlling for it (e.g., comparing students who've used
collaborative learning before vs. those who haven't in any analysis and
interpretation)? could one reassure a young faculty member who wants to try to
use collaborative learning strategies that student evaluations might appear to
drop for a while but would then likely rise, assuming that the course is
indeed well designed and that the strategies employed are in fact contributing
to effective student learning?
Thanks for any insights you can provide.>>>>

I found this to be the case in the first semester I started using group
learning extensively. I had previously used interactive lectures, discussions
and asking students to work problems on the board in math classes. I started
using groups and insisting more that the groups try to resolve their questions
prior to my explaining a solution methodology. They did not always understand
my good intentions and interest in helping them learn to think critically about
a difficult subject. They wanted me to simply tell them how to do it. I know
that doesn't work. They would tell me after a lecture that everything made sense
until they went home and found they couldn't do the work on their own.I stuck
tomy procedures and they began to learn how to study math and they enjoyed
working with others and talking and even arguing about how to solve math
problems (something they had never done before). However they still felt I was
not teaching
the way I should i.e. giving them information. In the next semester I started
a virtual campaign to inform them abouit CL and its benefits and why I use
certain procedures such as warmup exercizes and group building activities etc.
I also did a lot of cheerleading about the process and heralded every success
and student break through caused by CL techniques. This worked wonders. My
evaluations skyrocketed from good ones (4.3-4.5 out of 5 to 4.8 to 4.9's).
My suggestion to anyone starting to use or expanding their use of CL is to
make a extroadinary effort to explain what and why you are doing what you do
and the outcome you expect and then trumpet the positive effects as they occur.
This is a new approach for most students and changer brings discomfort. You can
allay
their fears by communicating with them virtaully every day. I give them articles
from journals and magazines and from newspapers, I use the seven principles of
good teaching from the Wingspread Journel and ask them to analyse it and
suggest ways we can use the principles in algebra classes. That helps them to
focus on the concepts of CL and begin to appreciate the reasoning behind it.
They appreciate my attempts to communicate with them. Finally I listen to their
suggestions about how to run the class which is a very important advantage of
CL over the lecture method. It also helps to be confident in your use of CL and
not be disuaded from using it as some students will try to do.
The result of this effort is that I get excellent student results. They
actually start enjoying algebra and tell me that my classes are their favorite
ones because they are so active in class. This has created a very strong
reputation on campus for my courses and now students expect that they will have
a great course, so I need to explain myself a little less defensively than I
used to. I still make a major effort to share my interests in CL with them all
the time. Something else that occurs to me is that when I return from a
conference with a new idea or technique I explain where I got it and how I
wouldlike to use it and that I am just as much a student when it comes to CL as
they are. They do appreciate the fact that I am making an extra effort on their
behalf by attending conferences on my own time. There is very little doubt left
in their minds that I am working hard to help them succeed.

Ted Panitz tpanitz@mecn.mass.edu

Date: Fri, 03 Nov 1995 18:35:06 -0500
From: Louis Schmier <lschmier@GRITS.VALDOSTA.PEACHNET.EDU>
Subject: Re: Collab. learning and evaluations
In-reply-to: <v01530505acc004420aad@[132.205.18.244]>
Sender: "Forum for Teaching & Learning in Higher Educ." <STLHE-L@unb.ca>

Penelope:
I don't know of any particular studies that answer your question. But,
from my personal experience, my student evaluations soared, drop-out rates
plummeted almost immediately. But, you have to realize that students
cling to the conventional pedagogy because it, too, gives them security.
When a prof tries to share the power, to give students more responsibility
for their own learning, they get cynical and scared. They complain that
the prof is not earning his pay. When they are invited into a more
creative active role, they prefer to run. They prefer the line of least
resistance and have their learning boxed and tied and presented.
So, students are, and permit themselves to be, lined up, counted,
organized and owned. And, professors gladly do it. Students are
threatened by an open invitation to learn for themselves and to help each
other learn; they would much rather have their learning packaged and sold
by the prof. They are threatend by newness and strangeness, of having to
expose their ignorance, by having to relate to their peers in ways they
would not outside the classroom, by the possibility of failure that would
mar their image, self-esteem, career. These fears are not deeply hidden;
they are at the surface.

Louis Schmier (912-333-5947)

Date: Fri, 03 Nov 1995 21:24:22 -0400
From: Karen McComas <mccomas@MARSHALL.EDU>
Subject: Re: Collab. learning and evaluations
Sender: "Forum for Teaching & Learning in Higher Educ." <STLHE-L@unb.ca>

My personal experience with student evaluations has been interesting.
First of all, our department has always had every class complete the same
evaluation form and then provide the students with the opportunity to
write comments. In the past, getting any written comments was rare.
The quantitative portion of my evaluations has always been strong. This
didn't change. What did change was that almost 100% of the students
provided written feedback which has been invaluable in aiding me in
making modifications where and when necessary. The majority of the
students made comments relating to the fact that they didn't always
understand how the course activities were going to assist them with
learning the course material, it was only near the end of the semester
that they realized how *much* they had learned. In addition, the
majority express their delight in having the opportunity to discover that
they can think. Finally, when students provide constructive criticism in
these written comments, they almost always suggest a solution...and some
of these have been very successful in subsequent offerings of the course.

If you are feeling uncomfortable, and uncertain, hang in there. You
might even share this with your students because they think that they are
the only ones that feel uncomfortable and uncertain. I can assure you
that you will not regret your new teaching style...the only thing that
you might regret is having waited so long to change.

Karen L. McComas
Communication Disorders, Marshall University
Huntington, WV 25755-2634
URL: http://www.marshall.edu/~mccomas/index.html
More info? finger mccomas@marshall.edu





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