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Uni Teachers: Ever read the open comments in evaluations?

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Joined: 13 Oct 2008
Location: Seoul, South Korea.

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 7:54 am    Post subject: Uni Teachers: Ever read the open comments in evaluations? Reply with quote

It's a thankless task teaching Freshmen in Korea. They are so often spoiled rotten, workshy, immature, hypersensitive and expect nothing less than A+ just for turning up.

You daren't say a thing about Korea or Koreans in class without some little twit misunderstanding it and scribbling some snide little comment in Feedback about your being critical of the whole country.

This semester when teaching writing I sometimes said something like "Korean student writers often have difficulty with X". To a few students, this means I'm racist.

This little comments section in the feedback annoys me. Students can say anything they like anonymously with no justification and anyone above reading it could very easily get the wrong idea. I remember some years ago my Korean hagwon boss telling us that he thought giving the students feedback forms to fill in on teachers would be a bad idea because he thought they would not have the maturity for the feedback to be constructive in nature but rather trivial, personal and casually spiteful. I disagreed at the time but now I get where he was coming from.

Here's hoping no Korean manager ever reads and takes seriously these comments.

Rant over!
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sirius black

Joined: 04 Jun 2010

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hasn't been my experience generally. Have had great comments and I teach mostly freshmen. My style is to make the class interesting and fun but always educational.I think my teaching style helps me a lot. Even though I make the final difficult (to help with that infamous curve). I throw in cultural information that is not on the test but useful to know about native English speakers. I sometimes often tell them of grammar issues that may help them on the TOEIC test. I also am very respectful to the country and people in my lectures.

I think my school is changing or has changed to only accepting the comments of A and B students which makes sense. Should anyone accept the comments of D and F students?

My biggest beef is the curve. 30% for A's is sometimes unfair if I have a class of smart students. It breaks my hear when someone gets over a 90 and I have to give that student a B+. The west is merit based.

Its the upper level courses with the upper classman that complain the most from my experience. The frsshmen seem too new and scaerd to challenge anything generally.
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Joined: 24 Mar 2011

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used to get top ratings at my uni. Then I married, changed nothing about my classes, and we also hired about 15 new foreigners quickly. My ranking dropped to the bottom 1/4 of foreigners within a year.

I did some checking around to see what others were doing that worked. I learned a lot. Now I am top 5 again.

1. Do give feedback forms at midterm. I do so, not expecting much useful feedback (although this can happen). This allows students to vent frustrations early, and only I will see it. Try to address what is reasonable. This also intercepts bad vibes, and they often do not repeat their dislike again on final school evals.

2. Give less homework. Ours is online, and I do not count it due until finals day. Less homework was the biggest factor in my ranking.

3. Give 2 easy quizzes so that they can get an A+ a few times and feel positive.

4. Only give D's and F's to students who miss class near the max, and do not do homework, do not participate, etc. In Korea, a C or C+ is really a bad grade. Make sure the kids worrying about passing see they are getting a C. Oherwise, they may kill you on evals out of revenge.

5. Pay close attention to what questions they were asked when evaluating you. I got them translated. One was "Does the instructor arrive 10 mins before class to answer questions." I began doing this and it helped.

6. Students here rarely value a firm/strict teacher. Not when it comes to certain things, anyway. Act like you will bend the rules for them on being late once or twice and they will love you. Privately, of course.

There are other things.

This may look like I have sold my soul to satan, and I often feel as if I have. Our boss, however, has made it very clear that evals and happy students mean more than morals or actual education. I am not bad.... we have one woman/professor/instructor here who identifies disappointed students and buys them all dinner! Another teacher passes out little homemade cupcakes with "A+" on them.

These kids have had their butts kissed their whole life. They expect it.
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Joined: 03 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Last edited by slothrop on Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 22 Mar 2009

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that just reiterates that a proportion of university students are probably not mature enough to be a valuable part of the process.
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Joined: 27 Jan 2006
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I teach first year university students, and while some of them are terrible in terms of motivation to study, bringing necessary materials to class and so on, I'd say most of them are pretty good, and a small minority great.

They do evaluate me, but I've never gotten a bad evaluation from even one class in four semesters at my school (failing grades aren't counted, and that has something to do with it).

I'm pretty strict, too: If you're more than 15 minutes late, you're counted as absent. If you don't bring your book, I will give you a hard time about it. If you sleep in class, I will mark you absent. If you text message in class, I will reduce your participation score. And so on.

I go out of my way to be accommodating and approachable though, and I always explain why we're learning whatever the lesson is, i.e. how it's useful to them.

My university does have a maximum percentage of each class that can receive a high grade unfortunately, but they never pressure us to not fail students who deserve it.

I have to say that my experience is quite different from the OP's. I don't know where he's teaching, but I understand that there's a huge gap in student calibre between schools here. Mine is a pretty decent university in Seoul, but certainly no SKY.
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Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Location: Retired

PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sirius black wrote:

My biggest beef is the curve. 30% for A's is sometimes unfair if I have a class of smart students. It breaks my hear when someone gets over a 90 and I have to give that student a B+. The west is merit based.


Many universities back in the "west" mark on a bell curve as well...not sure what you are going on about.

(bolding mine)

Grading and Moderation

Differentiation is necessary for CAP purposes, and for Honours classification, and these are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Most if not all major universities have variants of degree classes or GPA scores. And because of the need for differentiation, many institutions from North America to Asia, use the bell curve as a mechanism to moderate marks.

Module requirements may encompass different modes of assessment such as tutorial presentations, laboratory reports, projects, essays, as well as mid-term and final examinations. Grading may be based on absolute performance, relative performance, or a combination of the two. Higher-level modules with small enrolments typically grade a student based on his absolute performance; larger lower-level modules take into account a studentís performance vis-ŗ-vis the other students in the same module.

The last sentence doesn't exactly sound merit based either way.
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Joined: 04 Jun 2006

PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Way back when I was at university, I never experienced a bell-curve.

I hate to take this discussion to the nether regions but what the hey:

1. I was told that the university I attended, that high student evaluations were as suspect as bad student evaluations. If student evaluations were too high, the Professor was probably doing something as wrong as if students were giving low evaluations.

Nonetheless, the nether regions:

2. You are hired by the university to do a job. If it were to "teach English," you would be evaluated by your ability to "teach English."

3. Instead, you are evaluated by students perception of your ability to teach English.

4. So, teach the classes in ways that students appreciate and score well and you are doing your job. Hopefully, it will mean you will have a chance to keep your job.

5. Teach your classes in ways (no matter how effectively - sometimes Instructors think they are teaching effectively when they are not) - which students don't appreciate and get low scores and you will lose your job.

6. I don't think you have to bribe students, though no doubt it probably wouldn't hurt.

7. This is what I do and I have found it very effective:

1) Explain things clearly - in fact explain everything - I always tell my students why I am doing something in simple, clear language. This is the purpose and goal of this lesson. This is what I want you to do. This is what I hope you can learn. Students are always satisfied with this because A) I have a plan
B) They know what the plan is
C) The expectation from the plan is reasonable

2) Manage time well - You have a certain amount of time with your students -
A) Don't waste it
B) Cover what you say you will cover

3) Bring energy to the classroom- Nobody wants to be bored. Sleeping students are at least 50% your problem. 90% of students won't sleep if they think they have a reason to be awake.

4) Treat students with respect and respect their needs - Students know when you really care about what you are doing or if you are faking it. They know when you are comfortable in the classroom and when you hate it or are scared of it. You can't fool them. If you don't like it, looking for ways to kill time or nervous, they will eat you alive.

Also, if your goals and your student's goals don't match, you are going to spend your semester fighting your students. Make the most of the time and give the students what they want and chances are if you give them at least some of what they want, they will meet you half way on some of the things you think they need.

5) If students don't show up with books (rarely happens), find ways to accomidate them. Seriously! Pair them up with someone who has. Run activities which don't require books. Make them participate. They think they are going to get a bad grade anyway so why put forth the effort. You've got to tell them that they are going to put forth the effort anyway. They could care less if you give them minus 5 because they already know that when they have made the decision to bring a book.

6) Teaching is not rocket science. It is not some esoteric subject that requires privileged knowledge. But, it does take effort and care. Students and teachers have a special relationship and if you cannot "connect" with your students and make things "meaningful," they are not going to appreciate your efforts regardless of your education and your methodology. Students don't really care. And, if you think you will get respect for it, you are most likely mistaken. Your students will take to your class once you win their trust.

Walk the walk like in all those cheesy inner-city movies, just twist it to the Korean environment you have wound up in and make it work.

7) Someone already posted that things that work for one teacher do not necessarily work for other teachers. I think this is right. You need to find your own way to connect. But, once you connect I think you will find 90 - 100% of your students willing to work with you and develop their language skills.

Cool Almost forgot: A large part of learning happens outside of the classroom. Work on communicating strategies to help them study and use the language outside of the classroom. Much of your student's success will be in managing their education and not in teaching them.
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Joined: 20 Nov 2010

PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unposter wrote:
Students and teachers have a special relationship and if you cannot "connect" with your students and make things "meaningful," they are not going to appreciate your efforts regardless of your education and your methodology. Students don't really care. And, if you think you will get respect for it, you are most likely mistaken. Your students will take to your class once you win their trust.

Unposter, just curious, do you have any specific activites or topics you have done in the past that have worked well in helping you 'connect' with the students as you said? Such as a pairwork activity, type of worksheet, etcYou have generally good advice but I also thought it was kind of vauge and I am looking for practical tools to take into the classroom. Do you find using technolgy in the class such as powerpoint/video has helped you 'connect' or wasn't really necessary?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Students are looking for real care from the teacher and an easy class with a high grade, often achieved by manipulation. I used to conduct my classes that way until I realized that most Koreans are out for themselves and don't care at all what their teacher thinks. If you don't understand Korean culture or Korean language, you can do get along well enough with this approach. However, once you know how capricious Korean students can be (they'll change their minds at a drop of a hat), your logical mind willl change its approach. If you come to this point, you'll have to reevaluate your teaching strategy. Do not let yourself be swayed by bullies or sob stories. Your opinion of them means nothing to them: unless you're unshakable. Be especially wary of emails with an "it's so sad..." message.They got this from the movie "Black Swan", which if you see, you'll realize how it resonated with Korean audiences (quest to be perfect, overbearing parents, backstabbing colleagues). They got the "it's so sad" comment from "Black Swan". That's not a thought prevalent in Korean society. The closest I've heard from 4 years of conversation class is "I pity them/him/her". Sympathy/empathy are concepts that don't much enter the minds of Koreans. It's all about me. How I can succeed. You can either choose to ignore this reality or accept it and adapt to it. Of course there are exceptions, but they are the minoriity.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes. If you are getting 90%+ in every course and know what you are doing well it's good feedback.

If you are scoring 60%. You are in trouble.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Sorry, I did not notice your comment earlier.

Some of it is just personality but some strategies I try:

1. Always start the first real class of the semester with a fun activity. I also try to run a fun activity after the midterm (as celebration) and on the last class of the semester. Start them smiling and leave them smiling. All activities, of course, have educational purposes, but I find that if students think you COULD run fun activities, they are more willing to tolerate less fun activities.

2. I have specific activities I like to run but I prefer not to talk about them here. I think it is important to run activities that fit your teaching style and the learning styles of your students. Some of this comes with targeted trial and error and experience.

3. Use your students real names and learn them as quick as possible.

4. I try to sympathise with my students. If the students are concerned or thinking about something (such as a test, a school event...even the weather) I talk about it at the beginning of the class.

5. I try to listen to their interests and their needs. You have to be careful about insisting on things that you think are important that they don't. If they don't trust you, it is going to be very difficult to push these lessons on them without them pushing back. In order to gain their trust, I try to offer somethings they want and then explain why I think this is important. Everybody prefers a little give and take. 99% of the time they will appreciate.

I did have one class that just wouldn't buy into my lessons and I fought them the entire semester and my student evaluation suffered slightly from it. Then, I got them the next semester and the students did not look happy about it. But, I continued to talk about WHY I wanted to do certain lessons. The second semester they give in to me (I think partially because they realized they were stuck with me) and they ended up enjoying the semester, learning a lot and giving me a much better evaluation score second semester.

In these kind of cases:

A. Don't show emotion - show interest.
B. Always explain why you want to do something. Be the man with the plan. Tell anecdotes if you can. Make things more interesting.
C. Smile and have fun
(You can't fake this - if you are not happy, it is going to be hard for your students to be happy)

6. Never forget that you were once a student. Think about what teachers did to reach you. Think about what teachers did that turned you off. Keep working (trial and error if necessary) on doing the things that turn your students on and stop doing the things that turn them off. If it is turning your students off, don't push it. Find a different way to turn them on.

7. If a studnent wants to talk to you, don't cut them off, no matter how annoying you think the student is.

8. Treat all your studens equally. Don't play favorites. And, be honest wit yourself about this.

9. Talk to your students about education and they will treat you like a teacher.

10. Be intelligent. We have all done stupid things and we have all had wild and crazy times. Those things will not impress your students in the right way. Talk about hard work and study and you are more likely to get those things from your students.

11. Avoid talking about things that annoy you about Korea. Save that for your Western friends. This is a fine line but that does not mean that you cannot say anything negative but let the students bring up the topics not you. If you show yourself to be even handed in your thoughts and interests about Korea (you don't have to be a brown-noser), they are more likely to accept an occasionally well-thought-out criticism than someone who constantly complains. Earn their trust and they are more likely to consider your points. I don't avoid criticisms if they come up but I don't go around looking to debate my students either.

12. Advise your students. Talk about how to learn, issues you think are important and why, and try to give advice (including that you don't know when you don't but you are willing to look it up). If you give good advice, your students will look at you differently.

None of these strategies can be faked. You are either that person or your not. Students will know. The most important thing is to be sincere. Some students will like a slick teacher but there will be students outside the slick teachers sphere of influence who will resent the lack of attention. This strategy may work in smaller classes but it rarely works in larger classes.

You honestly care about your students and most of them will honestly care about you.

Just my two cents.
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