Annual review February 28, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching.
Tags: comments, evaluations, teaching
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I suppose getting evals once a year (since I’m currently teaching only in the fall) is sort of like having an annual review.
I have to say that I’m rather pleased with this year’s review. Of my four sections, I did have one ‘dud’, where the scores were noticeably lower than others. However, in all classes, I generally was at or above the average. Given I have now earned a reputation for teaching the hardest sections of the course, I think I’m a bit proud of that.
I had all of four comments:
She was very helpful when working on our schedules.
Does a very good job teaching everything.
The most interesting comment was this:
You assumed too much w/the final MATLAB assignment. People who have never programmed would never understand for loops and “if” statements.
I am amused that this person was so concerned about their peers that they felt the need to tell me I was expecting too much. Or maybe they were mad because they themselves didn’t understand and didn’t want to admit it.
I find it interesting because the whole point of the unit was to learn some basic programming…and I consider loops to be fairly fundamental. I also explained them in class. Even more important is that this student may not have clued in yet to the fact that one is supposed to learn new things in college, not just stuff that one knew before. That being said, the vast majority of the students were able to finish the assignment and did just fine.
I’ll just take it that I’ve officially reached “too high in the ivory tower” status.
Never piss off the secretary December 23, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in teaching.
Tags: secretary, teaching
After re-reading what I wrote in my last post, I realize that I sounded rather smug. That really wasn’t what I was going for, so I’m going to elaborate.
I try to work well with the staff and faculty when I’m teaching, and I try to make sure that I’m available to my students if I need help. I had a lot of profs like that when I was in undergrad, and I try to emulate them. I also had other profs who weren’t so conscientious (and a few who obviously didn’t care at all), and I really don’t want to be like that. I am hoping, given the comment by the secretary, I’m doing a decent job of working with people, students included.
Also, that secretary keeps a bat behind her desk. I really don’t want her to use it on me…even if it is inflatable.
More teachers like me December 21, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching.
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I got an email from the department secretary that an office on campus needed some information about a student. After digging up the info, I sent it to the correct office and then let the secretary know that it had been taken care of. She emailed back to thank me, saying also that she wishes there were more teachers like me. I thought that was a very nice comment.
More seriously, given my many years of experience as a student, I sort of wish there had been, too.
When persistence isn’t a good thing… December 19, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, engineering, teaching.
Tags: cheating, grades, teaching
I unfortunately have to turn in some forms describing how I caught some students cheating.
This is frustrating because every semester since I started teaching, I have managed to catch at least one cheater. I keep hoping that I’ll get through a semester without dealing with this issue, but I suspect that the reason I might not catch any cheaters is because they’re getting better at it or I’ve overlooked something. It would be nice, however, if it meant that they’d actually stopped.
I’m very confused why students would cheat in my class. I have a very open policy where I encourage them to talk with each other. I basically tell them I think they’ll learn a lot from each other. My big no-no is doing the copy/paste routine and then submitting it as one’s own work. I am very explicit about this. It seems ridiculous that someone would do this given they can talk to each other and look over each other’s shoulders. Apparently it’s too much temptation, however, and some students can’t seem to stop themselves from taking a final step over the boundary into unethical land.
compulsory mis-education December 3, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching.
Tags: attendance, classes, teaching
One of the first things I learned in college is that it’s never a good idea to skip class. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do it, but I did so with the realization that I would likely be paying for it later. This made me try to minimize it as much as possible, and generally I tried to make it unless I was sick or there was some other problem. (And with kids, there is always some other problem.)
I was a therefore a bit irritated when I received two emails from a student asking if he needed to attend class anymore. His reasoning is that there are no more assignments due, so there is no longer a compelling reason to attend. I responded by saying that, unless there is an emergency, it is assumed that the students will be in class.
I didn’t say, “Yes, you have to be there.” Realistically, I have no way of enforcing this. However, I wasn’t about to let him off the hook. The last day of classes are actually reasonably important. We have evaluations (now is your chance to complain!). I’m also having a student who has gone through the program give a presentation. The idea is that they can ask him questions and find out what may be important as they go down the road.
Aside from that, I don’t know how to get across to him that attending class is important. At least, it was in my experience. However, I’m wondering if maybe this is just a self-centered point of view. Maybe there are other things that the student needs to do that will impact their long-term outcome much more than missing my class. I also don’t want to be the cranky old woman, shaking her cane and yelling at those darn kids. Should I just trust that they’re better at prioritizing their own schedules? I’m not sure…
Maybe there would be better incentive if I provided free food.
The calm before the storm November 25, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, engineering, teaching.
Tags: office hours, programming, students, teaching
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I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This past week was Thanksgiving, so I obviously had a bit of a dilemma. I don’t like getting the classes out of synch because that means I have two different preps to complete. The obvious solution, therefore, is to just cancel class during the week of Thanksgiving, and that is exactly what I did.
However, I’ve changed one of the assignments in the class from optional to required. You may remember that last year, I talked about Engineers Who Don’t Like to Program. I discovered that the majority of my students would rather do a presentation than learn how to program. I decided this year to change that. Instead of having two optional programming assignments, I moved some things around so that there is one assignment, very scaled back from what I had expected last year, and it was required to pass the class.
I had a lot of intimidated students, but I think cutting the length back significantly made them less afraid. I chose to have two weeks in the computer lab to work on the assignment. They ended up being the week before Thanksgiving and the week after. In the meantime, I decided to add an extra office hour during one of the cancelled classes so that students could come and ask me questions.
Not surprisingly, no one showed up. I’ll have to remind them of this when I have an flurry of requests from students needing extra help right before the assignment is due.
One giant leap…sideways October 2, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, teaching.
Tags: education, teaching
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One of the assignments I give my students is to do a group presentation. For this assignment, each group discusses one of eight subfields of electrical engineering in front of the class. It seemed like a good idea because having me present for an hour on different fields seemed kind of absurd.
Last year’s effort was a disaster. I do realize these kids are college freshmen, but I was surprised at what a mess the presentations were. I decided it was probably my fault: they weren’t prepared and needed more guidance.
This year, I gave each group a sheet where I laid out what I wanted them to cover, how to break it up, and a couple starting points for doing their research. I figured it was bound to go better than last year. I was partially right. Some of the groups did an excellent job on their presentation. The groups that didn’t at least included some of what I wanted.
However, I’d say that the class really didn’t get much more out of this year’s presentation than last year. This leaves me wondering if I should scrap this approach to the project. However, I’d really like the students to have a better idea of what sort of areas they’re interested in when we start looking at schedules and they begin picking electives. I’m contemplating just giving them a list of web pages covered each subfield and having them write up a summary of their favorite two.
There are some rather practical implications in dealing with the problem this way. First, it means more grading for me. Second, it effectively eliminates two class periods worth of activities for me, and I’m not sure that I want to add anything in to replace them. I’m not a fan of filling up space just because, but when your class meets once a week 16 weeks, two weeks can have an impact. Finally, how can I be sure they are exposed to all of them and not just the first one that looks cool?
I hope that, if nothing else, the students are getting the idea of how frustrating it can be to watch someone else give a bad presentation.
I’m being used for target practice… September 27, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching.
Tags: favoritism, frustration, incoming freshman, students, target, teaching
Have you ever had a student who felt like they were above doing the homework for a class?
I have the problem frequently because my class is required for all incoming freshman. Somehow, there will be one or two that will fall through the cracks and end up taking it as an upperclassman. Or maybe they come in as a transfer student and someone thinks it’s a good idea for them to take the class. This is never a good situation as most of what I have to tell them, they may have already learned by trial and error. However, in fairness to the other students, I have to make them jump through all the same hoops that they do.
Many times I get the question, “Do you really expect me to do this?”
Yes. I do.
At which point they roll their eyes. And tell me they want an A in the class.
The problem, which they don’t seem to realize, is that I have set out standards to which everyone needs to adhere to pass the class. Everyone has to contract for a grade, so it is abundantly clear what’s expected from them at the very beginning. If I let the standards slip for them, then I can get called on favoritism. On the other hand, the assignments are relatively easy that I don’t understand why they don’t just do them and turn them in. What’s wrong with having an easy class now and again? Some of these students put more effort into getting out of the assignments than they would if they actually just sat down and did them.
To some extent, I can understand it. There’s this notion that freshman need this class to succeed. If they’ve survived for two years already, it’s not unrealistic to think they don’t need the class. But someone puts them in there, and they claim they can’t get out. This leaves me stuck with treating them like trained monkeys, and I can understand the resentment. It does seem like it makes a little bit more sense to have transfers take it, but they don’t resent it any less.
I think the real problem is that they just don’t want to be there, and I’m the only person handy as a target for their frustration.
Barely breathing… September 23, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, teaching.
Tags: adjunct, grading, teaching
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I’m teaching again this semester, and they asked me to take an additional section for a different department. What they didn’t tell me, however, was that this particular section is on a different schedule than the others. It’s half as long, which means I have twice as much prep and grading to do for this section on a weekly basis, and it’s different from the prep for my other sections. Given the class is around 30 students, that’s about 60 homeworks per week in this class alone.
So not worth it. It’s completely wrecked my schedule the past couple weeks. The good news is that I only have about 3 more weeks of class and that section will be done…leaving me with the other four. It’s not easy to handle 100+ homeworks each week, but when the additional 60 are two *different* ones, it gets insane.
Remind me never to do this again…especially since the amount I got paid for this section was about 80% of the amount I get for one of the other sections.
I just hope I can get through this without too much burnout.
Dress for success, i.e. dress like a man September 14, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, teaching, work.
Tags: clothes, professional dress, teaching, women in engineering
This week, I had a speaker from the career center come and talk to my classes in preparation for a career fair. He spent some time talking about appropriate dress, and showed examples of potential outfits for both sexes. I found this quite interesting, especially given a previous discussion on the topic of women’s dress on EngineerBlogs.
The first thing that caught my attention was that he said that women should wear their hair up if they want to be perceived as more professional. As a woman who has long hair, I can totally see this. I’m also not terribly happy about it because when my hair gets to a certain length, I start getting headaches if I wear it up. Beyond that, though, I think it’s interesting because of potential social implications. The speaker said that a woman who is willing to expose her neck comes across as more confident and competent. But that does make me wonder why…and the only thing I’ve been able to come up with is that women who wear ponytails look a lot more like men. Men who are considered ‘professional’ tend to wear their hair short. A woman who puts her hair up and exposes her neck looks more like a man with a short haircut, and men, in general, are going to be perceived as more professional. I may be wrong about that, but I couldn’t help but wonder.
Women’s clothing choices seemed more limited, IMO. It seemed like men could wear a lot of different things and still look ‘professional’. (I do have to note, however, that men don’t have extremely wide wardrobe choices to begin with.) By contrast, women’s clothing varied so much more in style, and most of them were not professional. Make sure you wear sleeves, be careful of color, watch the jewelry, etc. Beyond that, one of the outfits was one that I think a lot of other women would find professional or stylish but apparently weren’t perceived that way by potential employers. I’ve seen women criticize other women’s clothing, but apparently some of the choices that were being criticized as ‘unfashionable’ were being judged differently by employers. This makes me wonder if it’s not a good idea to get ideas of professional dress from other women, particularly if the field is much more male-oriented.
Beyond that, I had to wonder if presentations like this are ultimately harmful. On the one hand, I think it’s good to make sure the students understand the implications of their dress choices. Still, I have to wonder if these presentations reinforce ideas about what is professional and not, leading students to eventually make evaluations of others based on what they were told. I sort of feel like this is perpetuating a system where people are evaluated based on their clothing choices, especially on how feminine they look, rather than their technical ability. This is particularly frustrating because my observation is that someone who is quick to catch on to what constitutes professionalism may not necessarily be the best engineer.