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Documenting Teaching Effectiveness
Leslie Wade
Graduate Teaching Associate
Department of Psychology
Winner of the 2005 Graduate Associate Teaching Award

Over the past 5 quarters, I have received consistently high SEI (Student Evaluation of Instruction) ratings. The SEI ratings are mandatory, and are completed at the end of the quarter. Students are asked to rate instructors on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on the questions in the table below. As a teacher, the fact that my ratings are consistently high is gratifying, but I still believe that there is more work to do. Two of my primary areas of focus have been related to the 8th and 9th questions on the SEI item; I am very concerned with creating a good classroom atmosphere and communicating clearly to my students. I love teaching and I love psychology; this is my passion and one of the reasons I came to OSU for graduate school was that I knew I would have the opportunity to teach my own classes. I want to do a service to my discipline and also to my students and, as a result, I always seek to make my class a better experience for my students. To me, this begins with creating a comfortable environment and making a space in which students are not afraid to ask questions and share their experiences.

Psych 100
AU 04
Psych 100
WI 05
Psych 367
AU 03
Psych 367
WI 04
Psych 367
SP 04
Instructor well organized 4.55 4.66 4.90 4.75 4.95
Intellectually stimulating 4.55 4.50 4.55 4.65 4.85
Instructor interested in teaching 4.86 4.90 5.99 5.00 5.00
Encouraged independent thinking 4.66 4.42 4.70 4.70 4.80
Instructor well prepared 4.76 4.84 4.95 4.90 4.95
Instructor interested in helping students 4.86 4.88 4.95 4.85 4.95
Learned greatly from instructor 4.76 4.74 4.70 4.60 4.85
Created learning atmosphere 4.72 4.70 4.75 4.75 4.90
Communicated subject matter clearly 4.76 4.86 4.80 4.80 5.00
Overall Rating 5.00 4.84 4.90 4.95 4.85

In addition to the end of the quarter SEI ratings, I administer open-ended questionnaires at both the middle and the end of the quarter. Their mid-quarter evaluations assess their attitudes toward the lectures, notes, review sheets, my pacing, the course notes, and the course as a whole. This gives me an opportunity for a mid-course correction if there are things that are not working for a particular group of students; almost every quarter I have taught, I have made changes on the basis of that individual class’ needs. These open-ended evaluations have been invaluable for suggesting areas for improvement and highlighting what works. I have summarized the main themes of my student’s open-ended evaluations below. I am pleased that the themes of my student comments are consistent with my overarching goals for both classes, including: promoting critical thinking, creating a comfortable environment, encouraging active learning, and creating interest in Psychology.

1. Activities well integrated and in-class use of examples

  • Psychology 367 – “I really liked how Leslie used a lot of examples so that concepts were more easily understood”; “I love the examples that you give to help us remember things…they are usually hilarious and memorable”
  • Psychology 100 – “Various examples, presentations, small group discussions, and even skits are used to make materials easy to understand. It’s so amazing if you attend her class and observe how she connects with students in class and makes the class participate”; “Presentations are often related to everyday life. You make good connections to stuff we know and watch on TV”; “She is extremely good at connecting the course material with everyday life examples. This made everything more relevant and easy to learn for the students. She’s great and I love her class!”

2. Encouraged participation

  • Psychology 367 – “You are a great teacher, you let everyone get involved and make it much more fun than most lectures”; “I’ve never had a teacher who was so friendly and really interested in what students had to say”
  • Psychology 100 – “Leslie is a great instructor because she constantly reminds her students that she is willing to listen to anything they have to say. She is always helpful and always appreciative of new comments and questions during lectures”; “I really liked the atmosphere. People felt more open expressing themselves”; “I…like the encouragement you give for us to get involved in the lectures.”

3. Well organized and prepared

  • Psychology 367 – “I really liked how prepared Leslie was for each class and how she always had handouts on the material to help us completely understand it”; “Leslie put forth so much effort to teach this class. Since this class is concept based, she made it very interesting with movies, comics …and her stories”
  • Psychology 100 – “I like the effort that you put forth in your teaching. It is very apparent that you care about the subject, the class, and the students. I have friends in different sections of this class and the differences are obvious”; “Leslie was a very good teacher I thought. She made class interesting and fun. She knew what she was talking about and if she didn’t have the answer to our questions she would look them up and get back to us. She was also very helpful and friendly”; “I really liked the PowerPoint presentations. They were well organized and seemed like Leslie put a lot of time into them”

4. Encouraged attendance

  • Psychology 367 – “I really enjoyed this class. Afterall, my attendance in here was far better than in any other class!”; “I came to class because you made the lectures interesting even when the subject matter was boring”; “I loved this class. This was the only class that I wanted to attend”; “I feel that you are one of the best profs that I have ever had as a college student. You make me excited to come to class”
  • Psychology 100 – “I really liked having notes posted on the web—they encouraged us to come to class to get more information”; “She was an awesome teacher and I liked coming to class even though we didn’t get attendance points”; “You made me feel good about coming to class”; “Leslie did a great job. I never missed a lecture and they were always stimulating. It was not a class that you fall asleep in. I know it was because of the way that Leslie made all of the material easy to understand that I enjoyed and understood the material so much.”

5. Friendly/Creates a comfortable class environment

  • Psychology 367 – “I really like that even if I am in a bad mood before class starts, your positive and funny nature always quickly puts me in a good one”; “Any student will tell you that presentation is only part of an effective learning experience. It seemed to be in her nature for Leslie to go out of her way to assist students, whenever they needed it. Leslie brought personality to our classroom. She is a model not only for students, but teachers as well”; “I really liked the comfortable class setting and constant encouragement for participation”; “I really liked her positive attitude and her wanting to make sure that we all understood the material”; “I wish that Leslie would relay to other professors how to interact with students”
  • Psychology 100 – “You are the greatest TA ever!! So much fun, so nice and you really made us …think and relate with people around us. This class was more like ‘experiencing’ than learning from books”; “I really liked how my instructor taught the class. She made it interesting, easy to digest and understand the materials, and fun”; “I’d like Leslie to know that she is one of the best TAs that I have had and really appreciate that you take the time to learn everyone’s name and is so friendly”; “She has been one of my favorite teachers here. You can tell that she truly enjoys teaching and actually wants you to do well in the class”; “Leslie was very strong in communication, knowledge of the topics, preparedness, relationship with students and overall effectiveness. This was one of the classes I actually looked forward to going to”; “She has been one of my best teachers so far here at OSU. When you sit in her class, you feel very comfortable because of the good atmosphere she has created”

6. Excitement for teaching

  • Psychology 367 – “You’re very exciting to watch. Even if the topic is on the ‘boring’ side, you find a way to make it interesting. I can tell you are passionate about your work. That passion makes the BEST teachers”; “I really liked your enthusiasm! You made material seem interesting no matter what it was. The way that you presented the material made it all seem logical and simple even when the ideas were challenging”; “Your teaching style is great and it’s teachers like you that make me want to keep working toward being one myself. Although I may have to have three cups of coffee before each class to be as energized as you”; “It was obvious that Leslie is very passionate about the subject of social psychology. She is the best lecturer I have listened to at Ohio State. She repeatedly provided excellent and entertaining examples relating social psychology concepts to real life. Also, she was more that willing to go above and beyond the duties required of a teacher. If students had any problems she cleared up confusion via email at all hours of the day, which was very helpful. I was amazed to learn that we were her first class!!!”
  • Psychology 100 – “I really did enjoy class because you seem like you really love what you do! You’re enthusiastic and helpful and excited about your students and teaching. More profs should be like you!”; “Your enthusiasm was awesome. Very easy to pay attention and learn”; “I like the way you are always happy to be in class and smiling. When you are having fun being here it makes me feel like I should pay good attention and learn”; “SHE ROCKS!! I will send my kids to her if at all possible”

7. Concerned with student success

  • Psychology 367 – “I learned a great deal from her, especially how to write better essays. I feel she pushed me to develop as a writer and it clearly improved my communication skills”; “My comprehension of social psychology not only lasted for the duration of that quarter, but is still demonstrated in other subjects…I would not have been able to rise to the occasion if Leslie had not raised the bar”
  • Psychology 100 – “Leslie has helped me to succeed in this class”; “You really seemed to care how well we did and if we enjoyed class”; “I doubt I would have done nearly as well if I didn’t have you up front keeping things interesting”

8. Created interest in Psychology

  • Psychology 367 – “I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I enjoyed your class. SO much in fact that I’m changing my major from pre-med to psych…It was one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken and I know from experience that the professor is usually a huge factor in this, so thank you!”
  • Psychology 100 – “After I took Leslie’s class, I changed my major to psychology. I was so attracted to this field and very excited about major change”; “I think you’re a great teacher, best I’ve had at OSU. Class was interesting and fun, generated an interest in psychology for me”; “Her passion for teaching and psychology really got people interested in something they may not have expected to enjoy”; “After taking this class, I feel that the field of psychology is AWESOME. I want to thank you for this. I’m hooked now”; “She’s an awesome teacher…probably the best I’ve had here. I learned so much and was so interested because she made it interesting”

Comments from Student letters written in support of Department Award for Exemplary GTA Programs

“Each of her lectures was an effective mixture of information, demonstrations, real-life situations, and video clips presented in a manner that enticed us to listen. The concepts discussed in this class will stick in my mind because of the unique way in which they were discussed”; “She had such a wonderful personality and was very enthusiastic about social psychology. When a teacher is so excited about a subject, I think it rubs off onto the students. She always made learning fun, which gave us the desire to learn more”; “Leslie has been different from all the teachers I have had because she came off to the class as a real person, not just a teacher that got paid to teach us. I felt that she was concerned about me as a person”

Feedback sent through the FTAD “Thank a Prof” system

Winter 05 – Leslie gave real world examples and seemed to have a great sense of humor. She has a real passion for teaching and it shows! I enjoyed the class and it has influenced me to take other psychology courses and maybe to be a research assistant in the department! I enjoyed Leslie’s class and look forward to many more classes with her!

Unsolicited student feedback

1. Hi Leslie. I thank you for your amazing energy and hard effort you put into psy 100 class. I learned a great deal about a whole spectrum of different branches in psy. This was one of the top 5 classes I’ve ever taken including my years at Washington U. I think you are excellent at motivating people to enjoy the class and do their best. It seems like there is a subtle contamination of your energy among students while you are lecturing and all of us get connected and bonded somehow to make a great class altogether. It’s just incredible to see how different your approach to teaching is from others. I can at least say you are gifted…you and this class will be remembered for a long time…I will miss all the great things you shared in psychology 100…Best Regards, K. (email sent 12/3/04)

2. Leslie, I just wanted to be the first to thank [you] for such a great quarter. I honestly can’t believe you’ve only been teaching a short time. You have definitely found your calling. Your class is the first and probably the last that I will miss coming to, C. and I talked about that after class today…I noticed that the lectures the past two or three weeks have gone together really well with the handouts. That was one thing I mentioned in my student review. I really respect teachers who take feed back and do something about it…thank you for making the class fun and educational. It’s amazing how much material I have already applied to my life. What a blessing…L. (email sent 5/27/04)

My response to student feedback

When giving out course evaluations, I always try to impress two things upon my students. First, I take their feedback seriously, and I have made changes every quarter to make the class better on the basis of student suggestions. I tell them that I do not just want to hear what they liked; I try to express the importance of constructive criticism, especially concerning those portions of the course over which I have control. Second, this information is important to my future, and the feedback they give has a real impact on my ability to continue teaching at OSU and my development as a teacher for future jobs.

Over the past five quarters, I have made a variety of changes to the course based on student feedback that I have received on mid-quarter evaluations. My students in both Psychology 367 and Psychology 100 have had three primary concerns with me as a teacher at mid-quarter. First, some students think that sometimes I move too quickly. To respond to this criticism, I have learned to survey the room, and I do not move to the next slide until all of the pens have stopped writing. In addition, with particularly information-dense slides or difficult concepts, I default to giving at least two examples (instead of only one). I find that giving more examples gives them time to write, and offers more opportunity for them to connect what they are learning to things they already know.

Second, I have received a variety of suggestions about the notes that I provide. Initially, these notes were skeleton outlines of my lectures. Over the past two years, I have added an outline structure (roman numerals, letters, numbers, etc) to my notes and my PowerPoint presentations, so that it is always easy to find the material being presented on the notes. In both 367 and 100, my students have suggested, with particularly research-heavy or conceptually dense lectures, that I include more information. As a result, I have started to include more information on handouts in these cases, including key definitions and preliminary research findings. I feel that this ensures that students are trying to understand, and not just write down what’s on the screen. I also find that this allows confusion to be cleared up in class and offers my students an opportunity to learn from each other’s questions.

At the end of winter 2005, one student made the following comment on their open-ended evaluation: “[Leslie] always made sure she wasn’t going too fast. Later in the quarter, (she) made more notes available, so I was writing less and learning more.” I would like to believe that this suggests that I was making progress toward to the goals that I set for myself in regard to potentially moving too quickly, and in improving the course notes. I rarely receive any negative comments concerning my pacing or the notes on the final open-ended evaluations, which I take as a sign that I am doing a fairly good job correcting my pacing and notes for the needs of each individual class.

Third, some students suggest that more review for exams would be helpful. It is interesting to me as an instructor to get this feedback, because I am one of a minority of TAs who offers both review sheets and out-of-class review sessions in both 367 and 100. In addition, I am available over e-mail to answer their questions, and I hold weekly office hours that I encourage them to treat as an opportunity to review for tests. The students concern has caused me to explore ways to build reviewing into the course. Whenever we come back to a concept from earlier in the lecture or in the course, I always try to ask my students if they remember the concept in question, and I ask them to generate at least one example of the concept in question. Again, I believe that this provides an opportunity for them to learn from each other, which creates a better learning community than if answers always come from me.

Over the past two years, I have gotten consistently positive feedback for incorporating movie clips, television clips, and music into my class. As a result, I am constantly vigilant for any new audiovisual material that could be used in my course. In my winter 2005 course, I added 8-10 new video and television clips to my class that I did not have in the fall. I also get consistently positive feedback for the examples I use in class. I am always on the look out for new examples and keep a record of new examples to use in future quarters, including those suggested by my students. I even offer an extra credit question on my final quiz asking my students to think of an example of one of the concepts from the course and I tell them that I will use some of these examples in the next quarter. Even though I consistently receive high ratings on the SEI measure, I am always seeking new material that might improve the course, and my personal goal is to feel like I am never complacent; I feel best about my teaching when I am attentive to the needs of my students, and working to make the class better.

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