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Thursday, March 22, 2007

What if Socrates' Students Filled Out Teaching Evaluations?

I just got the results back from last semester's teaching evaluations. They weren't bad, but they were a bit lower than I'd hoped. Some of it was teaching two new classed, and some was having a new population to work with - each student body is different, with different backgrounds, experiences, and expectations.

Each time I've been at a new school, my student evaluations have been between a half point and three quarters of a point lower (on a five point scale) than they are in subsequent semesters. I generally get pretty good evaluations, and part of it is that I view teaching as not just the transmission of facts but also as a performance. But I always need to adjust the performance for the audience.

So, since I was in a student evaluation frame of mind, I got a kick out of this piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Hemlock In the Classroom." It asks "what would students say on their evaluations if they had Socrates as a professor?" Here are some of the better parts:
This class on philosophy was really good, Professor Socrates is sooooo smart, I want to be just like him when I graduate (except not so short). I was amazed at how he could take just about any argument and prove it wrong.

I would advise him, though, that he doesn't know everything, and one time he even said in class that the wise man is someone who knows that he knows little (Prof. Socrates, how about that sexist language!?). I don't think he even realizes at times that he contradicts himself. But I see that he is just eager to share his vast knowledge with us, so I really think it is more a sin of enthusiasm than anything else.

...Socrates is a real drag, I don't know how in hell he ever got tenure. He makes students feel bad by criticizing them all the time. He pretends like he's teaching them, but he's really ramming his ideas down student's throtes. He's always taking over the conversation and hardly lets anyone get a word in.

He's sooo arrogant. One time in class this guy comes in with some real good perspectives and Socrates just kept shooting him down. Anything the guy said Socrates just thought he was better than him.

...My first thought about this class was: this guy is really ugly. Then I thought, well, he's just a little hard on the eyes. Finally, I came to see that he was kind of cute. Before I used to judge everyone based on first impressions, but I learned that their outward appearances can be seen in different ways through different lenses.

I learned a lot in this class, especially about justice. I always thought that justice was just punishing people for doing things against the law and stuff. I was really blown away by the idea that justice means doing people no harm (and thanks to Prof. Socrates, I now know that the people you think are your enemies might be your friends and vice versa, I applied that to the people in my dorm and he was absolutely right).

Read the whole thing Here

HT: Daniel Drezner, who probably uses the Socratic method in his classes.

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