Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Don't Do This Either

My language class finally got to take its midterm exam today, but we had less than the full class time to do the exam. Two students were late, so the instructor made everyone wait until they arrived. The last one to arrive was 15 minutes late, so everyone got 15 minutes less to take the exam. It just seems obvious to me that the on-time students should get the maximum time and those who are late get less time.

I can't decide whether to say anything to the instructor about this kind of thing. If I do, would I be a more experienced teacher kindly sharing my wisdom with a less experienced teacher, or would I be an obnoxious student whining about not having enough time on a test? As a teacher, I would hate it if students saved their criticisms for the evaluation at the end of the class, especially for something that is easy to fix. I much prefer getting constructive criticism during the semester, when there is time to change or explain. I sometimes do a mid-semester evaluation to get comments while they are relevant. If students comment on something I can't or won't change, I can at least explain my reasoning.

As a student in this class, though, I am getting more of an appreciation for how difficult it can be to criticize your instructor, especially because I don't feel comfortable (as a professor-student) telling my instructor how I think she should run her class. I think it might seem especially obnoxious in this case because I am a tenured professor and she is a lecturer on contract. Just because I have more status doesn't mean I am a better teacher. However, if I can think of a kind, non-obnoxious way to talk to her about teaching, I will. There are certainly many positive things I can say about her teaching as well (as long as I don't sound patronizing..).

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gosh, what an incompetant teacher. But you should not speak to her, she is bound to take it negatively. Only thing you can do is write everything in the course evaluation form, anonymously.

Xue said...

perhaps if you subtly raised the issue with your fellow student-students, you might find out that they feel the same way. then you could subtly nudge them towards raising the issue with the teacher?

Dr. Lisa said...

Wow, wow, wow...I've never heard of a teacher making the class wait. What would have happened if one of the students were ill and just never showed up?

As part of my job, I mentor less experienced faculty as well as TAs, and I believe that teaching won't improve without guidance. Perhaps you could introduce yourself as a fellow teacher, not as a prof from a given department, and gently let her know that all the students DID have the same amount of time to take the exam - from the start til the end of class.

BTW, I've noticed that I can't take classes anymore because of pedagogical differences. I'm hoping to grow out of this phase.

Anonymous said...

How about asking her whether she'd like any suggestions from you?

Jenn said...

That's so very strange.

As a student, I've often, when I wanted to criticize something a professor did, asked him or her why he or she did the thing I disagreed with. My logic is that either I'll be able to voice a negative opinion after I have an explanation of the rationale, sometimes still in question form (ahh, I'm so very stereotypically female... "Doesn't that unfairly disadvantage other students?") or I'll understand the logic behind it and will feel better about it, and might someday think about modifying what the professor did in my future teaching.

Ms.PhD said...

Yeah, that sounds really stupid, rescheduling the test and then making the class wait. Very unprofessional.

But yes, it is hard to criticize upwards, although I have TONS of ideas for things my PIs and professors should do differently, they really don't want to hear it from me, no matter how I phrase it.

dpt said...

If you do decide to make a comment, please be sure to say what you (honestly) like about the class as well; from the last post, it sounded like the class was, overall, a positive experience, and the teacher was just fairly ignorant of the etiquette around midterms.

prof j said...

It sounds like the instructor is unwilling to make the student dislike her. Perhaps her continued employment depends on good student evaluations.

Yvette said...

That sounds... weird. Combined with what you said about rescheduling the test the day of, it sounds even more weird.

Did the prof do the same thing with any assignments? Or is this the first test and is it a new prof this semester?

Anonymous said...

How strange. Where I am at uni, we (students) can give continuous feedback via the module/unit mentor - so it's anonymous but still phrased fairly. That person then feeds back to the rest of the class as to the response and the reasoning behind it.

That approach certainly helps with the quick fixes! Even small things such as whether to take 15 minute breaks every hour, go home early or take one small break in the middle and go home a little earlier are generally discussed on my course. This is because our lectures don't fit into the university's pattern; we have a single lecture for four hours, where other students have 4 x 45 minutes with 15 minutes to get between classes.

Anonymous said...

Stop beating about the bush and say something to that instructor! At least you will have done something. There is nothing worse than silence held in contempt.

Prof J has a point, and an important one. While you feel uneasy to speak up because of your own position as a prof, both of your statuses and conditions within the university might be actually completely different.

Unfortunately, there are good chances that the instructor's employment depends on good comments (or that it's what is used by the Language Department's direction to dispose of instructors when convenient). Then you can better understand her practices.

If this person is indeed a contractual, your present concerns unveil how the (bad) double standards inflicted on adjuncts directly affect the students. Students are the first ones to "pay" when other profs avoid doing their jobs.

So say somehting. Speak up. This mught bring a lot of good. Not *despite* the fact that you are a professor, but especially *because* you are one.

--A Language Instructor

EcoGeoFemme said...

You have praised this instructor in previous posts, but now you have a very specific, legitimate complaint. You don't have to get into a huge discussion about teaching philosophies or breakdown her whole teaching method, just make your comment about this one thing. If she wants to engage in a more in depth conversation or get advice from you, you probably won't come off as patronizing because you genuinely like her and the course, right?

Female Science Professor said...

I genuinely like and respect the instructor of this course, and most definitely do not feel contempt for her. I have worked very hard to be a 'student' in the class and so am just feeling cautious about changing that dynamic.

r said...

Hi, I don't know if you've read this already, but I thought you might be interested to - it's about making PhDs for women 'family friendly'.
http://insidehighered.com/news/2007/04/04/family

Carrie said...

FSP -- you don't have to change the student-teacher dynamic by saying something. As a student, you are not happy that the people who showed up on time were penalized for the people who showed up late for the exam. Doesn't have to be a 'teacher-to-teacher' conversation at all!

CCPhysicist said...

If that instructor's position does depend on evaluations, irritating 95% of the class to keep 5% happy is a *really* bad move ... particularly when that 5% is likely to miss class on the day the evaluation form is distributed.

If I was in that class, I would already be talking to the Chairman of that department and its Dean. Right after I left the test. Been there, done that, as a freshman.