Each semester at McGill University, students have the opportunity to complete course evaluations for every course they’re enrolled in. Course evaluations are important because they’re an opportunity for instructors to hear from students how their courses are being experienced. Student feedback can provide instructors with ideas about how they can improve their courses for future students. Unfortunately, many students don’t necessarily see the value of taking the time to do course evaluations. In fact, the average response rate received per course is just under 50%.
Student ratings and comments in course evaluations can bolster teachers’ sense of efficacy. But even a single less-than-favourable rating or comment has the potential for disproportionately occupying our thoughts. This phenomenon—of focusing on the one or two negative comments among a sea of positive ones—is common.
A number of instructors at McGill have implemented peer assessment (PA) in their courses and have generously shared some of their reflections on the topic.
Professor Marta Cerruti teaches Materials Surfaces: A Biomimetic Approach (MIME 515/CHEE 515) to undergraduate and graduate students in the Faculty of Engineering. In a conversation about her experience with PA, she shares how she implemented PA in her course both within and among student teams, reflects on students’ PA experience, and gives advice for instructors thinking about trying PA in their courses.
A number of colleagues at McGill have been thinking about how peer assessment (PA) can be integrated in courses and have generously shared some of their reflections on the topic.
Dr. Maria Orjuela-Laverde is an Academic Associate at Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) who works on the Faculty of Engineering’s eLATE (enhancing Learning And Teaching in Engineering) initiative. In a conversation about her experience supporting instructors with their implementation of PA, she shares how varied PA assignments can be, describes her collaborations with instructors, reflects on peer assessment of teamwork, and provides advice for instructors thinking about trying PA in their courses. Continue reading Varied approaches to implementing peer assessment
Teaching can be an isolating endeavour. Instructors often prep material on their own, go to class, teach, and then go back to their offices. What they do in class is almost like a hidden act shared only between themselves and their students. Especially at a research-intensive university, instructors don’t always have opportunities or make the time to chat with colleagues about what goes on in their classrooms. But such conversations have the potential for being valuable in that they can inform instructors’ choice of teaching strategies; they can inspire and motivate instructors to innovate in the classroom.
For one week last semester (November 20-24, 2017), eLATE (Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Engineering) held its first Teaching Week, an initiative that addressed the isolation by providing an opportunity for instructors in the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Science to “open” their classes for observation by their colleagues. Faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and senior PhD students could learn from peers and see first-hand the implementation of a variety of teaching strategies. Some 15 professors from Architecture, Chemical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Physics, and Urban Planning participated. Those wanting to observe had to register for logistics reasons, but other than that, the event was fairly informal—there were no articulated learning outcomes and instructors were not being evaluated by their peers! By fostering peer observation and discussion of teaching practices, eLATE’s Teaching Week sought to build a community of practice to enhance pedagogical excellence in the Faculty of Engineering. The initiative included “coffee and chat” and “happy hour” gatherings where colleagues could reflect on and discuss the classes they had observed during the week.
How can you help students remember more of what you teach them? How can you help students connect related concepts in your course?
Join Teaching and Learning Services for a webinar series that will address these questions and offer ideas on selecting teaching strategies based on how students learn.
- November 21, 12:15-12:45pm: Remembering: Teaching students to remember important information
- December 13, 12:15-12:45pm: Connecting: Teaching students to organize knowledge
We hope you can join us for a virtual lunch chat!
On May 5, 2017, McGill’s Assessment and Feedback Group held an event entitled Getting students to focus on the questions, not the answers as part of its Brown Bag Series. To an audience of peers, two instructors described assignments they use in their courses that call upon students to create questions as a means for engaging them with course content and getting them to think about how they learn.
Below, Penelope Kostopoulos, a Faculty Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, describes her assignment. Carolyn Samuel, formerly a Senior Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre, describes her assignment in a post called What’s the prof gonna ask? Continue reading Getting students to focus on questions, not the answers