Course Evaluations and Classroom Technology   Leave a comment

Especially Regarding PowerPoint

Spring Semester ended recently.  Nine days ago the contents of my students’ evaluations of me and of my course became available to me.  I, as a classroom instructor, was understandably curious about their ratings and comments.  Over the years I have found them to be (A) generally quite different from the depiction of me at ratemyprofessor.com and (B) occasionally helpful, occupying the category of constructive criticism.

Usually, though, I have found these course evaluations to be mostly useless.  For example, I copied the course objectives verbatim from the university and pasted them into my syllabi, yet some students thought I had not stated the course objectives clearly in those documents.  Also, I critiqued drafts of essays whenever students asked me to do so, but one pupil criticized me for having no involvement in assignments outside of the classroom.  Furthermore, I organized the material (as many students acknowledged) yet some accused me of being disorganized in my teaching.

My interpretation of the last criticism is that those who wrote it really meant that they would have preferred for me to have used PowerPoint in the classroom.  But, as one student told me, he was grateful that I did not use that technology.  He had become accustomed to copying PowerPoint slides for other courses and had found that procedure mind-numbing.  He enjoyed my emphasis on analyzing the material, he said.

Technology is useful is my lessons.  I enjoy being able,  for example, to show my students the full text of the Stamp Act (1765) and to use a website to adjust historical dollar amounts for inflation.  However, PowerPoint is useless in my classroom.  I recall that almost every PowerPoint presentation to which someone has subjected me has entailed he or she reading the slides.  PowerPoint is a useful tool in certain settings and for some subjects, but I avoid the technology.

Besides, my teaching style is not amenable to reading from a script, notes, or PowerPoint slides.  No, my instructional style is more discussion-based.  I master the germane material, follow skeletal notes that function mostly to remind me to cover certain topics, and use my memory.  I speak authoritatively and from my knowledge.

This style, I know, is foreign to many students, spoon-fed notes (often via PowerPoint) for years. I want them to think critically, however.  I know that this exceeds the capacity of many of my pupils.  This is not entirely their fault, but I must raise the bar, I know.  I realize that I will do them no favors by not raising the bar.

I found no constructive criticism in the course evaluations this time.  I did, however, learn how oblivious some of my students were to objective reality and how dependent upon PowerPoint they were.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Posted May 24, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Education

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