The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Feedback and Assessment

These past two weeks have been pretty interesting for me. During these past couple of weeks students in one of our introduction to University living courses have been given the task of interviewing one of their professors. They are instructed to ask questions about the professor's college days, the profs first year in college, why the prof chose to be a prof, how they make relationships with their students, and advice on struggling students and overall first-year success.

I have been interviewed now by about 10 of my Intro to Psychology students, which makes me feel pretty good. I know that my students feel comfortable enough to ask to talk to me one-on-one. This is not that surprising since I'm not too far removed age-wise from most of my students. But it also gave me a chance to reflect on my own ideas of what higher education is all about and the advice that I would give to new college students. In general I tell them to keep up with the classes, go to lecture (I found that one out the hard way my first semester of college), get a good social network, and to become involved in all that their school has to offer from sports to organizations, to the traditions of the school. For me higher education is so much more than simply getting a degree to get a job, it is about an experience to help one discover who they are and to further broaden themselves as a person. I am a firm believer in the Liberal Arts tradition of higher education.

I also asked my class to complete an annonymous course assessment letting me know what resources they are using and how useful they find them. Generally the comments are good and the use of the resources is not surprising (most like my lecture notes that I post after lecture, fewer actually use the textbook). But what I liked was the free comments that I allowed students to give. Again, generally good, but it let me know that I should slow down just a bit during lecture. I tend to go a little too fast, but if I slow down just a bit between introducing a concept and then giving my examples it should help those who feel I go a bit fast. But I got the general feeling that my students are enjoying coming to my lectures and find my lecturing style useful and educational.

So yeah for me, I am doing a pretty good job and now I have some concrete feedback that I am doing a good job too. Hopefully this will translate into my next big challenge of teaching Abnormal Psychology next spring, which is more outside my comfort zone.


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