I ask my students to write a "self evaluation" at the end of each semester in all my classes. It is intended to have the students reflect on their performance and behavior in the class. It is not intended to be a class or instructor evaluation since these are done officially by the administration. Some of their comments do reflect their evaluation of the class but they generally focus upon how the class procedures have influenced them. This assignment provides me with some interesting insights into students' thinking and reaction to my cooperative learning approaches.
This assignment is also used to have them think about how they will approach their next math class and to encourage them to make changes needed to help insure their success in future classes. The responses are very candid, as you shall see in the responses that follow.
Not all the responses are positive but this reflects the honest and personal nature of my relationship with the students that comes from my using cooperative learning techniques throughout the semester. I emphasize that I am never offended by what students write if they are being honest and constructive. To me developing this relationship with my students is as important if not more so than simply making sure students have covered the course content.
Most students comments are positive about the class and my techniques and I see this as a testimonial to the nature of cooperative learning which allows me to express myself and show the students my human side as well as allowing me to get to know each of my students on a much higher level than just finding out about their academic capabilities.
I WOULD LIKE YOU TO DO AN EVALUATION OF YOURSELF IN RELATION TO THIS CLASS. THIS WILL NOT COUNT IN ANY WAY TOWARD YOUR GRADE, HOWEVER IT IS REQUIRED TO COMPLETE THE CLASS. PLEASE ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS, NOT NECESSARILY IN THE GIVEN ORDER. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ADD ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD CONSIDER APPROPRIATE TO HELP ME UNDERSTAND HOW THIS COURSE WENT FOR YOU.
* HAS YOUR APPROACH TO MATH CHANGED DURING THIS COURSE OR COMPARED TO PREVIOUS COURSES? IF YES HOW?
* HAVE YOU ATTITUDES OR FEELINGS ABOUT MATH CHANGED?
* HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU PERFORMED IN THIS COURSE?
* WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY IF YOU HAD A CHANCE TO DO THIS ALL OVER AGAIN?
* HOW DO YOU FEEL THE COOPERATIVE LEARNING APPROACH WORKED IN THIS COURSE?
*DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING CLASS PROCEDURES?
* WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD THAT I DID NOT ASK?
PLEASE TYPE YOUR EVALUATION
SAMPLE STUDENT RESPONSES:
"Before taking this class I had negative attitudes towards math. I did not understand too much and focused little on learning it. However, my thinking has begun to change. I am able to figure out problems that I once thought were too complicated to complete. You made the atmosphere one in which it was fun to learn. I feel that my performance has improved as a result of this. Students were able to communicate and work through problems together. The grades I received were higher than any other math course I have been in. I was happily surprised."
"My approach to math has changed during this course. Previously I would not have bothered picking up the book outside of class to study. I would begin the day with a lecture and then try to learn from that. But now I am willing to do my part in order to understand the material, and it has worked."
"Overall I would have to say that the laid back, conversational and non-threatening way the course was structured seemed to help me overcome some of my preconceived notions about math. The course was set up in such a way that made learning a little more fun than in previous math classes. Also, being able to converse openly to my neighbor, or the teacher, if I had a problem, certainly helped me feel relaxed, non-threatened, and at ease if I ever had trouble finding an answer to a problem. I had a feeling that if I ever had a problem I could go to the teacher or a student and I could troubleshoot or dig until I got the information I needed. The uninhibited atmosphere in the classroom made me feel that no matter how difficult a particular problem was to grasp, I could use the resources available to me in the classroom without feeling intimidated. Being less intimidated meant that I could ask more and more questions until I got the information that I needed to succeed.
"I think I performed rather well in the class but I felt I could have done better. If I had done more of the problems in the book I may have gotten a better grasp of the material. I think, however, that I did a very good job considering my circumstances of having a full time job a family and taking another course (general chemistry)."
"Prior to my entrance in this class my experience with math has been a struggle. I have learned from this class that math can be enjoyable if you make it a group process. I gained a lot of experience from working closely with the students at my table. I never felt alone, like another face in the classroom. My wish is that I find another open-minded professor that will allow me to continue to learn in the same manner.”
--Ted Panitz, Mathematics, Cape Cod Community College, Massachusetts
* * * * *
You can receive weekly e-mails with strategies like this one for helping students become active, responsible learners. To subscribe to the ON COURSE NEWSLETTER, simply click here and send the resulting e-mail. You don't even have to type anything. Our computer will automatically add your return address to the On Course Newsletter.