This is an extremely broad and encompassing topic. It’s far too large to answer concisely. However, here is my question. If you could give one piece of advice to a new college instructor related to this topic, what would it be? Do you want to hear my response?
June 6, 2010, I wrote an article by this title. Recently, I addressed a group of my adjunct instructors. I touched on some of the points in my article. I also talked about some of what I wrote in my recent article How to Prepare to Teach a College Course. However, I forgot to mention one simple bit of advice of college faculty, which I will mention in a minute.
College faculty members are evaluated in several ways. As a dean, I evaluate them based on student feedback. I also evaluate them based on student success. I want to see a high percentage of students passing the course coupled with a low percentage of drops. Of course, I do my best to determine that my instructors are upholding the integrity of the college and not just easy graders. There are other intangibles I use, but I will save all that for another article.
What occurred to me is that there is an often overlooked and undervalued resource for college instructors to use to help them give their students what they want and need. And every instructor should make good use of it. It is the course evaluation form that their students will complete near the end of the term.
My March 14, 2010, article by this title, was subtitled Make Sure Your Evaluations Aren’t “Evil-uations” The piece of advice that I plan to email to my adjuncts is to review their past evaluations, look for opportunities to improve and make self-improvement plans.
For first time instructors, my message is to keep a copy of the evaluation form handy. Review it regularly, and assess yourself against the criteria your students will be using.
What do College Students Want?
Here is another tactic you can try. Ask your students what they want and expect from you. There are a number of ways to go about this, but I would advise soliciting anonymous feedback. Ask them open ended questions like “What is the most important thing you want me to do to help you succeed?” Give them some examples of the things they might want to consider, or you may get a lot of worthless responses like “teach me something” or “go easy on the grades.”
Word of Caution: When you ask your students for advice, you are giving them a voice. There is an expectation that you will not only listen to them but act according to their requests. For this reason, it is important that you give them some feedback. Summarize the feedback you receive and share it with your class. It might go something like this. “To those of you who requested I dismiss class early every evening, my response is no. But I will do my best to keep the class interesting so you won’t have any problems staying awake. A few of you who expressed concern about the two major papers required in this course. This is a college course, and I intend to uphold high standards. I expect a lot from you, and I do want you to succeed. For that reason, I will be guiding you through these two projects. You will have opportunities to submit drafts for me to review which will not count toward you grades. Furthermore, you will have one opportunity to resubmit your graded papers if you are not satisfied with the initial grade you earned.”
It’s all about getting to know college students – your college students. Here’s hoping you give your students what they want and need!
© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.
January 15, 2011