I did not want to post this entry, for many reasons.
- I am embarrassed to admit that I am not a good teacher.
- I am terribly disappointed to be confronted with this failure, just after the “high” of the publicity around my City-of-Edmonton inspired project in my CMPUT course.
- I am completely frustrated by the fact that what I thought was a good (in fact a better-than-good) course may end up in my “failures” column.
So I was not going to post it, definitely not.
And then, I decided to join the ranks of the ones who come out with embarrassing stories about themselves, in the hopes that their stories may be useful to others who are facing similar situations. And so here I go and I am posting this entry.
Last Friday, I found in my mailbox my teaching evaluations for my course last term. They were not-quite-abysmal but they were definitely, undoubtedly, undeniably bad. If the world was black and white, these evaluations would be black (or white in cultures where white is a color of mourning).
Now, I should also come clean with the fact that I am not an award-winning teacher (at least not at the undergraduate level) but these evaluations were quite below what I have come to expect from me. And the clear message (in fact the only written comment on the back of the collection of “agree/disagree” questions) was that the project was too hard. And the fact is that the project was not really too hard, definitely not harder than the projects usually done in this course in past years. And the only explanation that I am left with is that my students disliked the fact that the project was “real” and saw this to be too hard. Maybe I am oversimplifying but, no matter whether the project was the reason why my evaluations are bad or not, the truth is that the students did not like the project; they disliked it more than students generally dislike the project in this course; so in the end, I am having to attribute the strong dislike of the students for the project to the only feature that distinquished this project from the projects of past years: its realism. And that frustrates me … a lot. And, I am not sure what I will do next time I have to teach this course, and I am guessing it depends on when the next time will be and whether I will have forgotten the sting of this experience by then…
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