One of the GIR PM’s joined my class this week, as they do for everyone. It’s a bit late in the semester for mine, but that’s okay.
I actually changed the order of my class around a bit just so I could have a more interesting class for the one she attended. She came on Wednesday of this week, and I reviewed pass by value versus pass by reference then introduced sets. On Monday, I taught pass by value vs pass by reference. If she wasn’t coming to lecture, I would’ve flipped those because finishing my data structure teaching then talking about pass by value / reference makes more sense, but oh well. There’s just more interaction for the set lecture, and that’s more representative of what my lectures are usually like.
I also spent a decent amount of time preparing for this lecture; more so than other lectures. I tried really hard to not make any mistakes in my slides but still found one during lecture. Oh well, that’s expected by now probably.
In any case, I asked for feedback, and the feedback I got was generally good. First: “Very clear logistical info up front! I like that you led by setting some very clear expectations and reviewing class action items”. I do this at the beginning of every class, because there’s a lot going on. There’s always homework or project due as well as quiz and quiz retake requests every week, so reminding students about this is good. Also the final is coming up, and I also tell them about Google events whenever there are any.
“Your slides were very legible and worked really well for virtual viewing — good set up and amount of content per slide to really understand what the key takeaways were”. I didn’t even think about the virtual-ness of my slides. I just really don’t like slides with too much information on them, so I never put too many words on my slides. That’s just how I make slides in general, not only for GIR. I also care about how they look, so they look pretty and uniform.
“You did a great job calling back to prior classes and concepts, building on existing knowledge”. I review every lecture before going into new material, so this is good.
“I liked the cold calling! The class was more interactive than many I’ve visited, and I’m sure that format keeps students on their toes.” Interactivity is an aspect of my class that I really, really, really like. I think establishing that I’m going to randomly call on them throughout the lecture at the beginning of the semester was great, and they expect this to be the case. It’s the norm! I’m (still) really happy with the interactivity of the class.
“I wonder if you ever mix format up a bit, mixing in some live coding, or sharing some more context about how some of these concepts might be applied”. I knew about the concept of live coding but I never tried it because I didn’t want students to have to type along when I do. Also, due to virtual-ness, I don’t know whether students would actually type along, so I think I just sort of assumed they wouldn’t and therefore never did this. In hindsight, maybe this would’ve closed the gap for some students on how concepts translate into code if we practiced typing code in class together. It’s probably a bit too late to put this into action though. For the latter bit about how concepts might be applied, I do already do that. At the beginning of her feedback, she said “please take with a grain of salt, as this is part of the semester where I stop understanding intro to cs material”. I definitely explained how sets are useful and why we care about them. Same with pass by value versus pass by reference.
“Time did run over a bit — no idea what Fisk students schedules are like, and if folks ever have back-to-back classes”. This was on accident, this pretty much never happens.
In general, pretty good feedback, “Again, overall great job — you seem very prepared, and also have worked so independently this semester”. Yay!
On the flip side, I decided to open the feedback form that I’ve put in place for my students to give anonymous feedback on, and to my surprise, there were actually (five) answers from the beginning of September. Oops. I know I checked the feedback from sometime in August and there was no feedback, so I never checked it after that.
One student gave all positive feedback, which was nice. I saw all the negative feedback first though because that’s the first question in my feedback form. There were two students who gave pretty strong negative feedback.
One person said there’s too many students in the class and people keep talking over each other. I also noticed that pretty early on, and I put an end to that. The same person said they don’t like they don’t understand what’s going on and they felt embarrassed to ask follow-up questions.
I was thinking about that, and I wonder whether I should rephrase my question of whether my answer sufficiently answered the student’s question. I usually ask “Does this make sense?” or “Does that help answer your question?” before again asking “What questions do ya’ll have?”. Maybe I should say “What other clarifications can I make about this?” or something like that to get more questions. I also thought maybe I should’ve made asking questions part of the students’ grades, but that seems to be going overboard. But I think I’ll start asking ‘What other clarifications can I make about this?” as a follow-up question to students’ questions.
They also said that one of the professors should teach the majority of computer science courses. Ouch. I didn’t really take that to heart though, because there wasn’t really anything in this feedback that I didn’t already address. The student was probably really frustrated with not understanding the material, but if that’s the case, they should come seek help. I can’t really do anything about that; I’m open to helping students basically all the time, and I reach out to students to see if they want to do some homework or project questions together. I can’t do more than that, and I doubt that the professor the student named can give this much attention to any given student. I also don’t know how the professor would address any of the negative feedback from this comment.
Another student said the homework and lectures isn’t synced. When I first saw that, I thought that meant my homework is too far ahead or behind lectures, but when I read the entire feedback form, this student also put in the “What do you like about this course?” that there’s nothing they like, saying “I’m having a hard time thinking about that, I don’t think I like a single thing” and following that with the lecture material is too easy while quizzes and projects are too hard and it’s unfair. They also wanted me to review assignments during class and lab, which I didn’t do and would never do.
I did think about whether I should give out answers for assignments, but I want students to be able to debug their problems or come ask for help. So, I solidified my decision to not give answers, which will continue being the case.
Another student said the projects instructions are ambiguous and unclear, and the grading is too harsh. I’m not sure where that’s coming from, because as far as I’m concerned, they’re pretty clear and students do the project properly for the most part. I might have had less clear instructions for the first project, but if other students were able to do it without any issues, does that mean they’re unclear? I do also know that I did modify the instructions over time. This student said that the harsh grading is making them uninterested and frustrated with computer science, and they also talked about the difficulty discrepancy between lecture and homework / projects. I probably should’ve seen this feedback earlier to try to close that gap.
So after all of that, I saw the one positive feedback (as expected, in these sorts of feedback forms — students will probably only fill them out if something is going terribly), in which the student said the way concepts are being explained is great. They also appreciate the recordings since they concepts are explained well in class, and they said the class is a lot of work and at times overwhelming but all the homework, quizzes, labs, and projects helps cement the knowledge.
Well, I guess that’s not a bad round of overall feedback. I should’ve kept reminding students about this feedback form throughout the semester, but I think it’s too late now to add more or to change much. If I were to teach again, I would probably link this feedback form at least once a week.