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What is the best advice you can give a new teacher?Lecturing: The results you get are directly proportional to the effort you put in. You will magically become a better lecturer if you put a lot of effort into preparing your lectures and write down most of what you will say in advance. (If you want to do an especially good job, rehearse your entire lecture at least once before presenting it.) But if you start writing your lecture the morning of the lecture, or get less than five hours of sleep the night before, you will probably do a shabby job.If your lecture is longer than an hour, it’s good to have a break halfway through the lecture, since students get restless when they have to listen to you for too long. As a bonus, students might come to your desk and ask questions during the break, and then you’ll know what people understood and what they didn’t.Engagement: You will win the hearts of students if you clearly show that you care about them, and want them to have the best possible experience. Two ways you can do this are byActively soliciting feedback from the students. When I was teaching I offered students extra credit for filling out feedback forms every week, and actively changed my teaching style based on what people said in the feedback forms. This was an easy way to both improve my teaching and make people feel heard.Holding extra office hours on weeks when the material is particularly difficult. On some weeks I would hold six hours of office hours because the first students to fill out the feedback form were reporting that they spent longer than usual on the problem set.Backend stuff: Your TAs’ performance is critical to the success of your class. You should of course try to hire TAs who have a solid understanding of the material, and have good teaching evaluations from previous quarters. But you should also set them up for success by making sure you have high-quality solution sets ready before the first office hours of the week. If you don’t do this, many of the TAs will not know how to solve the problems, or will lead students to incorrect or conflicting solutions in office hours.(In general you should produce solution sets yourself instead of relying on TAs to generate them, because TAs will in general write solutions that are very brief and sometimes incorrect. The level of detail in the solution set should be the level of detail expected from the students; it shouldn’t just be a “sketch” of the right answer.)
Have you ever seen a bad teacher "figure it out," turn it around, and become a good teacher later in their career?I see teachers radically improving all the time, myself included.Here’s a secret: I’m still not a great teacher. I make a lot of mistakes. I have a lot of classroom problems. I have students who dislike my class or subject and I don’t get through to all of them.Including the various forms of assisting and student teaching I’ve done, I’ve been working at it for about 7 years now, a half-year of which I had full control of a classroom of my own. While I’m miles better than when I started, I’ve only barely scratched the surface to effective teaching.And several times a day, I recall my own experience with a first-time professor to remind myself that I can change.One semester, I had a brand new first-time professor who, God help her, was very intelligent but did not know how to teach.This was a lower division course that was mandatory for many students in different major fields. As such, it tended to be taught by a lot of different short-term adjuncts rather than full-time experienced faculty.(The freshly titled doctor’s “teaching sins” weren’t horrific or abusive, just pervasively bad and disheartening. Also, note that the following things may have been more normal at a large university lecture, but it was highly unusual for my small, discussion-centered class.)The professor used a PowerPoint that was literally just the textbook word-for-word, including the textbook illustrations. Then she read the PowerPoint to us, without pause, for the entirety of class. The lecture always ran over, so the students never found out what she wanted us to know from the second half of each textbook chapter. She didn’t give time for questions, and when someone managed to sneak one in, she often couldn’t answer it unless it was on the slides. Sometimes we’d have scheduled labs, and she wouldn’t have the necessary supplies or instructions on how to perform the lab. Grading happened inconsistently— after more than a month of waiting, if ever, and often to unpredictable standards.When we tried to talk to her after classes or during office hours, the professor’s attitude was that learning was our job outside of class, and it wasn’t her fault if we couldn’t learn directly from her lectures. After all that, a good portion of the class stopped showing up.Then… the mid-term new professor evaluations. (It was standard for all newly hired professors to be evaluated early and often, for precisely this reason.)I don’t know what the other students wrote on theirs, but the nicest thing I could say was that she clearly stuck with the assigned textbooks and was covering the material therein. Dozens of those evaluation forms, filled out in stark honesty and more than a little frustration, were sent to the professor’s supervisor.The next day, this poor newly minted professor walked in to the toughest faculty evaluation meeting of her life.She could have come out angry and retaliated against us. I knew plenty of professors who did.Instead, the professor started the next class off with a sincere apology accepting the blame for many of the classroom issues. More than what she said, I was struck by how she was clearly devestated that her teaching wasn’t effective, and yet eager to turn things around.Her next lecture was about half her previous zippy speed, and she answered our questions in addition to guiding discussions in the subject. Grades were up-to-date within a week, and all papers returned with feedback. The work was appropriately difficult for college and required concentrated effort to succeed in, but now we were capable of doing it.In a month, the class went from frustrating and impossible to achievable and thought-provoking. I learned 10x more about the subject in the second half of the course, and I picked up a lesson in teaching as well:Even the very best of intentions don’t instantly translate to polished knowledge.You may come in to the classroom with strong personal ideas of pedagogy and classroom management, all supported by the latest and greatest in education research, and that plan can utterly fail if you aren’t meeting your students where they are. There’s often a middle ground between being the person you are and being the teacher that they need, and it may take practice to find the right balance.Most teachers have bad moments. They only become bad teachers if they persistently refuse to accept at least some of the blame for their own bad behavior.Note: by “bad teachers”, of course I mean lazy, rude, disorganized, or otherwise ineffective teaching, NOT criminal, abusive, or cruel behavior. The latter type of “bad teacher” doesn’t deserve a second chance to do it right— they should not be teaching, period.
How true is it that Harvard has terrible grade inflation?I’m not sure how pervasive it was overall, but I did witness one glaring example during my first semester.It was during a time when I took a very relaxed policy about attending lectures for my Calculus class. Meaning, I didn’t go.I was required to attend the smaller group sections, where attendance was taken, but every lecture could be skipped with no short-term repercussions. No teacher or coach or mom could make me go. The freedom was intoxicating.I was the embodiment of why high school graduates decide to take gap years, or why some countries have mandatory military service starting at age 18. A person who regularly skips class at a school that costs $50,000 a year so that he can sit in his room playing an online flash game called Slime Soccer is not ready for college.Unsurprisingly, I fell behind fast.I don’t know what I expected, jumping straight from Algebra II, the last math class I completed in high school, to calculus at an Ivy League. It was like trying to compete in an Iron Man without knowing how to ride a bike (the reason I didn’t drop the class was because I was convinced I had to major in economics if I wanted to get a job that made real money upon graduation).The first homework assignment felt like it was one of those ploys where the teacher tries to find a math genius by secretly giving the students unsolvable problems. Turns out it was really basic stuff that most people had mastered in high school.Still, I was always a good test taker, so I figured I’d somehow pull it together for the first exam.Nope. I got a 23/100.It’s never good when your test score isn't even a good baseball batting average.The next night, I went to a free tutoring session after basketball practice.Ten minutes after it began, I was in tears. Something inside of me snapped as I tried and failed to understand the basic properties of vectors. The tutor was great at math but not at emotional support. She tentatively patted my back the way you might pet a dog if you’re not really a dog person. Bless her for trying.When the session ended and I was left alone with my thoughts, I noticed something odd. It wasn’t that I was sad, it was that I couldn’t turn it around. The part of my brain that normally pumped me up and told me everything was going to be okay had abandoned me.I turned to that trusty section of grey matter for support, but all I got in return was, “Sorry man, I’ve got nothing. You’re screwed.”That’s when I first contemplated cheating, which was a big step for me. I’d never been a cheater. Growing up, it was an ironclad rule of mine: no cheating, ever. It was a way of separating myself from the people I saw as weak-willed losers.I got back to my dorm room, face still a bit puffy from crying while at the tutor, and mulled over a new lifestyle of sin.“Is this a life-defining decision? Does every evil person have this slippery slope moment? Was Jeffrey Dahmer once at a fork in the road, where one small decision was all that stood between normalcy and eating faces?”I decided that no, cheating wasn’t going to make me a bad person. Morality is malleable when you’re staring down the barrel of your first F.I mean, no one wants to cheat, but sometimes that's what you have to do to survive.Or when you really, really don't want to study.So, I joined up with some basketball teammates that night and copied their calculus homework.That wasn’t so immoral, I told myself. After all, most of the people I interacted with copied homework. I wasn’t a monster. Isaac Newton was the monster. The world was just fine without calculus.And thus started a rationalization a routine that would continue unabated for the rest of the semester. I started creating loopholes and justifications at a torrid pace, and like the cumulative effect of millions of exhaust pipes slowly eating away at the ozone layer, the scope of what I considered acceptable behavior got bigger and bigger.My chance to really embrace the devil on my shoulder, by attempting to cheat on an actual test, came a few weeks later. Our team was leaving for a road trip that happened to overlap with my second calculus midterm. It was the first time a trip conflicted with an exam, so I assumed that I’d just take the test when we got back from Maine.But no. Myself and three other teammates took the test in a small office next to the calculus lecture hall on the day before our road trip. The test was supposed to be proctored by a TA, but she stepped out of the room shortly after handing out the exam.If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite NBA player got great grades while attending an elite college even though he believes the earth is flat, it’s probably because he took a lot of tests where the proctor just happened to step out of the room.But instead of the cheating bonanza I was hoping for, paranoia set in. Were there hidden cameras? Had she just run to the bathroom? Was this a weird psych experiment?Whatever the case, my (so-called) friends, who were so keen to let me copy their problem sets, now stonewalled me. (It was almost the exact opposite of the time a similar thing happened to me in high school.)The TA didn’t come back for an hour, but we still soldiered on alone.I ended up getting 58/100, which was more than double my first score, but still an F. That's when I learned that there is no such thing as an F+, which I think is a little discouraging.There was now only one exam left. But, because the final was worth 35% of our grade, there was still hope that I could pass the class.Now was the time to really buckle down and make a plan — a plan that didn’t involve studying hard, missing basketball practice, or depriving myself of any fun activities. Those were non-negotiables in my warped world view.Sitting in my dorm room and pondering my dilemma, I realized that there was no need to overcomplicate things. How had people cheated since the beginning of time? They just snuck glances at the test next to them. So I decided to leverage a skill I’d honed on the basketball court since I was seven — my peripheral vision.After reframing all my hours of basketball practice as “study time,” I felt better about having barely reviewed any actual math leading up to the test.The day of the final, I chose a desk directly next to a smart girl I knew from my section.I felt jittery but ready. As the proctors handed out the tests, the “positive self talk” part of my brain finally reemerged. But now it was more like the ramblings of an unhinged business tycoon justifying a shady deal:“Yeah, you’re cheating, but for a good cause! And what is morality, anyway?”“You should never tell a lie, but what if you tell a lie to prevent a murder? Didn’t Kant say that was okay?”“Well, calculus is like a serial killer hell bent on slitting the throat of your future career prospects. You can’t sit back and let that happen.”After writing my name on the exam, I took a look at the first problem, I guess magically hoping it wouldn’t be gibberish. It was.So, I turned my head 10 degrees to the left and glanced at my classmate’s test. She was off to the races, writing quickly and legibly. I had to scramble to keep up. But then I noticed something printed on the top right corner of her exam:BI looked at the same spot on my exam:AOh lord.I checked the questions and realized hers were different than mine. Then I realized that there were multiple versions of the test, and that no one within my range of vision had test A. There went my plan.As I scribbled down equations, hoping for partial credit, my thoughts drifted to the future. Would I get kicked off the basketball team for failing? How would I tell my parents? What were the pros and cons of going to the bathroom and calling in a bomb threat?An hour later, the test ended and I was put out of my misery. I left the lecture hall feeling worse than the time I pooped my pants on the way to a high school basketball game. I couldn’t even cheat right. What hope did I have?When the score was posted online, I was unsurprised to see a 59/100 staring me in the face.I barely had time to digest this depressing news before another email came in telling me that I could view my final grades for every class.I figured I’d rip the band-aid off, so I logged in to the online portal. My eyes shot past French, Econ 101, and Expository Writing, going straight to Calculus.I stared in awe.C-I passed! And my parents would assume I was having normal academic growing pains, not that I’d become a craven cheater, devoid of all values and self respect!I was so elated I decided to walk over to the math building to talk to my calculus teacher, Sarah. (not her real name)She was the angel of a TF who taught our small group section and the one who gave me the passing grade. I wanted to shake her hand and maybe give her a hug.I also wanted to confirm my grade was real. I didn’t see how exam scores of F-, F+ and F+ could equal a C-. But hey, I am pretty bad at math.I found Sarah in our classroom, sitting behind her desk. She closed her laptop and smiled.“Hi Drew, what can I do for you?”“Hey, Sarah! I just wanted to say thanks. I can’t believe I passed. And, just...thanks.”“Drew, you had a positive attitude, you showed tremendous effort, and you had a burning desire to improve. Plus, you improved your performance on every test. I think with continued practice you will make a fine math student.”Now that’s how you see the positive side of an awful situation. She probably went on to an illustrious career as a political advisor.When I got back to my dorm room, I had another email. This one was informing me that I should fill out teacher evaluations for something called the Q Guide. This was a survey of the student body used to collect feedback about classes and teachers, which was then used by students to pick their classes.We rated each of our teachers on things like how clear their lessons were, how much passion they had for the subject matter, and, most importantly to slackers like me, how hard the class was.That’s when I realized that grade inflation had been working behind the scenes for me the whole semester. People always said it was a lot harder to get into Harvard than it was to get through it. Now, I believed them.I don’t think any young teacher of an entry level class wanted to be known as teaching “the hard class.” So, as a young TF trying to climb the ranks, what were you to do? It seems that some of them were as ethically flexible as I was.Sarah followed up our meeting with a nice email: “Thanks for always trying so hard and best of luck in the future.”Translated, that reads: “We both know what happened here, you lucky little bastard. You better give me a high rating in the Q guide.”Or maybe everything was just graded on a curve, and I actually didn’t do that bad in relation to everyone else. (Which is its own form of grade inflation.) Regardless, from that point on, I worried less about the prospect of failing a class. And it was so nice to know that I didn’t have to cheat.I probably should have paused at that point to reflect on what I’d become, what I wanted to achieve, and how I could avoid the temptation to cast aside every value I held dear when times got tough. But stressed out, kind of depressed, 18-year-old know-it-alls don’t have time for such petty concerns — there was so much Slime Soccer to be played.
Is it going too far to ask a potential girlfriend to fill out a potential partner evaluation form?You have, of course, offered her your version of the same form (or equivalent), filled out with all your answers, right?I just applied for a job I may decide I don’t want because their application process is so 1999. Allow that your prospective partners will be evaluating your date selection process while they fill out the form. It is possible that some women will relish a more straightforward, apparently data-driven approach and find it more comfortable to write answers than to talk.This might actually be the best way to weed out incompatible partners, for you.You will have to accept that this WILL weed out incompatible partners, of course. As long as you can live with that fall out, I’m all for reducing the field of candidates to manageable numbers as fast as possible.You might want to have the form reviewed by someone you trust who can help you evaluate how you have worded the various questions and make sure that the data you are seeking is actually relevant to your criteria.(And you do have criteria, of course.)
How can I write a teacher evaluation form? How should I start to sentence?TDeron is right: this question needs context, especially if you would like specific answers. That being said, let me make a few observations that have applicaton in most possible contexts. The most important part of both creating an evaluation form and for filling one out is to understand the philosophy behind it. If you are creating the form, then you will need to know what you--or the organization you are writing this form for--value as most important for a teacher to do well. You will need to decide whether you value certain activities/actions or achieving certain outcomes--leaving the methodology to the teacher. Once you decide these things, the next step is to select or invent metrics that give you some way to measure and report how well the teacher did the actions or achieved the outcome that you value. Once your metrics are determined, then data collection methods must be developed to acurately report what the teacher did/achieved. Once the values, metrics, and data collection methods are determined, the form will pretty much begin to write itself. If you are writing the form for an organization, then you will need to understand the values, metrics, and data collection methods of the organization and write the form to reflect what the organization values and measured in the language of the methods it used to collect the data. On any evaluation form space should be provided for the evaluator to explain, elaborate, or expand on any rating that he or she feels is extremely important. Space should be provided for evaluators to give specific examples of behaviors that are to be encouraged and those that might become part of an improvement plan.An evaluation form is an important part of an evaluation process. It is derived from the process and must represent the results of the process accurately. Having a clear understanding of the evaluation process is essential to creating or filling out an evaluation form.
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