Docende discimus.

“To be a good teacher, you have to be part stand-up comic, part door-to-door salesman, part expert, part counselor.” – Bob Solomon

Halfway through the semester, it’s evaluation time again! And just because I like my seminar, that doesn’t mean my students do, too, especially considering that lately I forced them through tough theoretical readings and noticed an increasing disatisfaction on their parts. But, and that might be worse, I also noted an increasing disatisfaction on my part, because discussions would become slow and time and again they tried to force me to give them some ready-made answers to questions where “it depends”. Plus, many times I just feel they prefer to stick with their preconceptual ideas of affect, when for 8 weeks now we’re actually reading different approaches they could chose from to have a fruitful discussion. However, I also see evaluation as an opportunity to reassess my expectations and impressions of my performance, because in the end the important thing is that we all learn something from this.

So yesterday I handed out the evaluation sheets, and shockingly got the results back this morning already. I was hoping for some time to digest, especially since yesterday’s session wasn’t what I would call a complete success. Now the reason I got the sheets back so early is because they’re computer-based and converted into statistics, and my report is now full of colorful lines and circles which I feel I would need an introductory seminar to statistics to actually fully grasp. But then again, there’s the comment sections, and these do time and again offer clues on what the lines and circles might mean. First of all, let’s say it worked out fine, I’m mostly above average, which I think is great considering the international (50% are exchange students!) and interdisciplinary backgrounds (there is even a sport science student!) of my students and the demanding readings, and especially that this is the first seminar I invented all by myself.

What I learn from this, is that I have to continue thinking about how to make my learning philosophy much clearer, because my students want “clear” and “exact” answers, when I want them to learn that precisely those do not exist in many of the texts we’re reading and the problems we’re working on. In a similar vein, this goes for me chairing the discussions. I do not like to interupt people in class, and of course I do not have something to say about every comment they make. But for them, this might often look like I don’t care, or don’t moderate strictly enough. So I’ll have a look at the university’s advanced vocational trainings on these issues. Overall, the survey left me quite motivated, however, and I will try my best to make some concepts a little clearer in the next sessions. Also, there was this one comment that really gave me the feels: “This is one of the best seminars I have ever had. (…) You’re a wonderful and inspiring instructor. This is university as it should be.” How would I not want to make the most if this class now?

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2 comments

  1. John Doe

    Even when the official numbers say there are 50% Erasmus-Students in class, proportional to the attendance I’m pretty sure there are a lot more (f. ex. last time there have been 4 national and round about 20 international students). Additionally a lot of the erasmus-students do not even study social or human sciences – there are political finance students just as sport students and psychologists – a completely mixed through class with people who have a lot of different areas of expertise. For me, this is a very logical explanation for why most of us want to have clear answers and feel not comfortable by having that fruitfull discussions – I guess most of the erasms do not have the needed preknowledge on how to deal with especially anthropological and sociological theories. This is even more harder the less knowledge people have about human science issues in general. Recently I asked one of the Erasmus-classmathes why he is in that course and he replied “because the title was cool”. This is not a critique to you, but rather a compliment to your field of research, So don’t be dissatisfied by the fact that people still feel more comfortable by using preconceptual ideas of affect theory – better feel satisfied by the fact that you’ve made a lot of young not-human-science-students dealing with highly theoretical social science theories in a way they became interested in. Because this is what your evaluation shows you for real.

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    • gruhe

      Dear John, thank you for this illuminating comment! I mostly appreciate the mixture of disciplines in class, but of course it always poses a challenge. But I’m happy the overall impression seems to be that people are interested in the subject even though they’re from other disciplines, so, yay to this!

      Like

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