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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, Number 25. 2nd October 1975

Students evaluate lecturers

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Students evaluate lecturers

The results below were compiled from questionnaires distributed to over 500 students in some 20 courses finishing at mid year in the Political Science and History departments. We undertook the work in the belief that teaching is not given enough emphasis at the moment in the University, and outlined this belief in two earlier articles in Salient.

Eventually what we tried to do was to provide both students and staff with some readily available comments on these courses in the hope that they would lead to a wider-awareness of the importance of teaching and a greater amount of staff-student communication. The extent to which these aims were fulfilled is discussed below.

A copy of the questionnaire with a 'typical' response appears on this page. Students were asked to fill in coded responses in particular boxes, and then asked more open-ended questions. We were disappointed at the low number of replies to the last question on the value of such questionnaires and possible suggestions for improvement (of which there were none), but otherwise replies were useful.

From the questionnaires such as that reprinted here we totalled the number of replies to each question, and then divided by the number of people who had replied to that question (i.e. excluding those who didn't answer or indicated no opinion). These coded results are presented at the beginning of each course, and indicate the "average" opinion of it in the particular areas.

One possibly surprising trend was for many people to criticise the course severely in the written comments but to give "high" marks in the coded responses. This possibly indicates that the coded questions were not all that relevant in many people's eyes.

What is notable about these results is their "high marks" for nearly every course. The lowest on the "recommended" question was 1.59, indicating that 60% would recommend the course. Organisation, workload and lecturers' abilities all rated highly, with the exception being for the amount of student say in how courses are run. While some courses had a high mark, others were clearly unpopular in this respect (although some respondents classified the question as "not relevant" — which is relevant in itself).

The written replies were, by and large, more critical than the coded responses. This was because critics tended to write longer (and generally better) than those who approved of the courses. Particularly was this so for Pols 213, where three, students covered the entire back of the form with their criticisms. In the summaries of these points, we have tried to be as fair as possible, but this source of bias may be apparent below.

To what extent did we achieve our aims? In many respects the long delay in getting the results out will limit the effects. We apologise for this but in view of our other commitments it was unavoidable. Generally, the need for better teaching in the University is becoming, albeit slowly, more recognised and we consider that students, the receivers of the education, should have as much, if not more say, in this as anyone. However, while the publishing of results like these can create some awareness of what is happening and how students view it, there are unfortunate "bureaucratic" tendencies in the approach we used. What is necessary for real student participation in courses is for the students in those courses to get together and work out their own ideas and expectations, before putting these into practice. Only in this way can we really achieve a more democratic education system, even within the limitations that the "cult of the expert" and more generally society impose.

In conclusion then, we feel that the exercise was useful in revealing student opinions about courses, and hope that the results will create a better teaching atmosphere. However, in view of the time taken to process them, and the more political objections raised above, there are possibly more effective ways of getting greater student participation in their courses and greater control over their destinies.

Pols 101

Prof Roberts and Dr Robinson.
Organisation 3.58
Workload 2.96
Prof Roberts Convey info 3.18
Dr Robinson Convey info 3.88
Students' say 2.17
Reccomend 1.85
Knowledge 4.63
Approachable 3.78
Knowledge 4.46
Approachable 3.85
185 students enrolled, 94 replies

Generally, students thought the course was 'not bad'. Noone was wildly enthusiastic, but only a handful were very dissatisfied. The typical response was a qualified approval such as 'fairly useful', and 'at times it was interesting'.

Teaching: Students who commented on the two-lecturer arrangement approved of it, but lectures were criticised for being too dry and mundane. Dr Robinson tended to read out his study guide Notes on New Zealand Politics, and many students called for a more "conversant" teaching. One captured the general feeling in saying "lectures could be more psychedelic, to excite and stimulate the mind". Many felt students should participate more in the organisation of the course, and that there should be m more room for concentration on particular aspects of interest to individual students.

One student complained that there were too many sexist comments, and pointed out "Women in politics will never have equal opportunities if you constantly reinforce stereotyped humour about their present role"

Content: There were two very clear trends in students' comments: the content was superficial, mainly general knowledge. Most attributed this to the short time (6 weeks) over which the course was taught, and many were frustrated by it, calling for more "in depth" study. — it concentrated on the formal structure of the political system (eg Parliament) rather than on the social implications of politics (how it really works). There was little analysis of policies and not enough criticism.

Pols 102

Ray Goldstein
Organisation 3.26
Workload 2. 2.87
Lecturer Convey info 2.82
Students' say 1.40
Reccomend 1.65
Knowledge 4.50
Approachable 3.98
185 students enrolled, 93 replies.

In considering these comments, as with the 101 ones, it is necessary to realise that these courses will be completely reorganised (again!) in 1976. Ray Goldstein himself didn't like his lecturing in this course and will not be taking it next year. Consequently the remarks in his 344 course might give a better indication of his lecturing abilities.

About ¾ of the students made some general comments. The comments were split fairly evenly between good, average and bad, though comments were generally guarded eg fairly useful, quite interesting, could be more interesting. Clearly it was not the sort of course one would rave about either way.

Teaching: Many complained that lectures had too much reading out of notes and were too formal. There was insufficient room for feedback from the class. A fairly detailed outline of lecture content was given out to students, most of whom apprecisted it, while some suggested that it made the lectures even more rigid ie it restricted students ability to participate.

Content: There was the same old problem of too much to teach in too short a time. The course was run over only 6 weeks, and like 101, many complained that it was rushed and superficial. In a reverse of 101, many wanted Goldstein to start with an outline of the structure of the Government, rather than start with the social issues. Perhaps there is a happy medium somewhere. One student put this well "Perhaps N.Z.ers are less knowledgable in U.S. politics than was first thought". Many felt the text book to be too elementary for University students.

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Pols 204

Ivan Cikl:
Organisation 4.38
Workload 2.30
Lecturer Convey info 3.73
Students' say 3.15
Recommend 1.92
Knowledge 4.73
Approachable 4.36
17 students enrolled, 13 replies.

Without exception, students who made remarks made favourable remarks. They thought the course "very useful", but none explained exactly why.

Teaching: No remarks specifically about the teacher but general comments indicated that students reacted positively to Dr Cikl.

Content: Very clear trend, that the workload was too great. Most students suggested that the time for the course should be increased so that the same amount of material would still be covered.

[unclear: The] criticism that there should be less specific assignments and more time for students to do general reading.

Pols 244.

Rod Alley: Intro to international pols.
Organisation 4.06
Workload 2.90
Lecturer Convey info 4.27
Students' say 2.89
Recommend 1.96
Knowledge 4.73
Approachable 4.00
46 students enrolled, 32 replies.

General reaction to the course was favourable. No student said she/he found it 'useless.' The positive replies were like 'Very useful' most quite useful, very-informative, i.e. favourable but not rave reviews.

Teaching: Few students commented on the teacher, thus no trends can be deduced. However, students considering taking the course may be interested in some of the characteristics of Dr Alley, as some students saw him. They said

  • need more student participation. Alley was a good lecturer but dominated 'tuts and lectures.
  • seminars need be longer than 50 mins.

Content: The most common complaint was, as usual, that too much was covered in too short a time. Students wanted less material, so it could be covered in more depth.

  • A number of students would have liked greater use of visual aids, i.e. films.
  • Note: we do not want these sections to just state trends in what students thought It is also important to relate remarks of individual students, that might be of special importance to other individual students considering taking the course e.g. one student said 244 should include the works of Marxist economists as they relate to 3rd World countries. Another wanted the couse to include 'imperialism.' Another said course was descriptive rather than explanatory, it lacked the ability to analyse consistently. These remarks are probably made by students with specific interests, thus even though they are isolated they are useful to other students with similar interests.

Pols 213

Prof Murphy: Political Philosophy with Special Reference to Marx.
Organisation 2.11
Workload 3.23
Lecturer Convey info 2.58
Students' say 2.11
Recommend 1.53
Knowledge 4.18
Approachable 3.80
25 students enrolled, 17 replies.

Students in this course had a lot to say, more than in any other course, ranging from the positive to the very negative. About one third thought the course was good, using phrases like "very interesting", "challenging thinking". Another third thought it average. Slightly over a third were obviously not at all pleased, with comments like "bloody useless" and "useful in that it got one used to being blinded by a snowstorm of distorted facts".

Teaching: Again there was a wide divergance. One student praising the "dispassionate and analytical" style. At the other extreme, one complained about "the agent of bourgeois ideology" and compared him to a maths teacher arguing that 1+1=3. Certain themes however relating to organisation did come out These themes were expressed in a wide range of responses, ie from students who felt the course was good as well as bad.

Lectures were felt to be poorly organised, lacking both framework and aims. Rather Rather than a systematic presentation of topics, there was a disjointed and somewhat confusing development from lecture to lecture. Tutorials were organised too late, and the topics not described in enough detail.

The textbooks did not arrive until late April-early May, and even then not in sufficient quantities. From one comment, students without books had to sit a terms test worth 30% without the books. There was also complaint that Murphy would not allow essays to count towards the final grade.

Finally, the frequent changes in the course requirements created confusion (see the story on these in Salient 9: Political Philosophy with special reference to Murphy).

Content: Students who thought the course was average or good criticised the organisation, as above, but still found the experience worthwhile. A number said the content was too great for a ½ year, 6 credit course.

The rest of the comments on content came from the third who thought the course was poor We have included these at some length because these students made by far the most detailed replies, which should not be ignored just because they don't fit into a 'trend'.

The course according to these critics, concentrated on two or three critics of Marx and not Marx's own works. Few references were given to the actual works, and when quotes were taken, sources were usually not given. As a result, there was little encouragement to read Marx himself.

Prof Murphy was interested in Marx as a 'great mind' ie as a subject of detached academic inquiry. That might be a study of 'Marx', but it is hardly one of 'Marxism'. Marxism, as the students saw it, demands that the student make personal decisions about what he/she thinks and does in his/her own life. A 'detached' study of Marxism is thus a contradiction in terms

Some 6 students made criticisms that Murphy was too dogmatic, in various ways, such as stating things point blank, rather than asking questions about points of view. One thought him narrow-minded about Marx, and another claimed to be in fear of expressing his/her own views.

Several of these students added provisos to the approachability question, saying that Murphy was approachable and helpful on minor issues like essays and exam dates, but was completely unmovable on the really important issues of assessment and course content. His attitude was "you can discuss it, but it won't have any effect on me".

Pols 344

Don McAllister: Organisational Analysis
Organisation 3.68
Workload 3.46
Lecturer Convey info 4.00
Students' say 3.82
Recommend 2.00
Knowledge 4.75
Approachable 4.72
22 students enrolled, 16 replies.

Unfortunately, students in 344 didn't have much to say, so there's not much to report. Almost everyone spoke favourably of the course "very useful", "very interesting" etc Noone spoke badly of it.

Teaching: There is little we can helpfully relate. A seminar method of teaching was used, and there were two isolated comments: one criticising the students' lack of response and the other praising McAllister's ability to keep the class together and judge its feelings and opinions, and his "sharp sense of analysis".

Content: Those students who commented wanted a "more practical and innovative emphasis rather than "theoretical studies".

Pols 341

Ray Goldstein:
Organisation 3.77
Workload 3.22
Lecturer Convey info 4.22
Students' say 4.56
Recommend 2.00
Knowledge 4.67
Approachable 5.00
10 students enrolled, 9 replies.
The students' comments were more useful to the teacher than to future students, but we analyse them anyway. Most students were interested in the course. Their complaints were:
  • Teaching: Students were ill-prepared for seminars, because they were concentrating on the one major presentation and not weekly readings.
  • Content: There was insufficient time to get into the individualised project. This is the same problem as all half-year courses have.
  • that there was an unfortunate fragmentation between research project topics (with a NZ emphasis) and seminar topics (US emphasis).
  • that, as with every course, there was too much to cover in the time.
We are noting this comment of the one student who found the course 'not particularly useful,' because it may be useful to others with political leanings similar to that students. She said:
  • It should examine the more radical theorists, rather than reformers who have already made questionable assumptions about the making of foreign policy.
  • In seminars, there was too much emphasis on what 'the author' thought and not enough on what i think.' That is, students tended to voice authors' opinions and not their own opinions.

Pols III

Les Cleveland:
Organisation 3.83
Workload 3.34
Lecturer Convey info 4.16
Students' say 2.25
Recommend 1.91
Knowledge 4.76
Approachable 4.41
289 students enrolled, 115 replies.

This course is compulsory for BCA students not majoring in Political Science or Public Administration.

Answers to the question "How useful did you find the course" were in two clear categories:
  • the course was very good for broadening one's general knowledge of political and social systems, particularly NZ's.
  • but many students distinguished between a "useful" and an "interesting" course. The typical reply was "very interesting, but not at all useful for my BCA with accounting major."
Still, the course was fairly well received especially as it is a BCA core unit. Of the 115 replies, 49 liked the course, 9 positively disliked it; 20 thought it "okay,' and 35 didn't say anything. In more detail:
  • Teaching: Many students praised Les' "entertaining" and enthusiastic lecturing style. But there were complaints of insufficient student participation in lectures. Of course, the class was large, but it was noted that lectures would be more stimulating if students' own ideas were discussed, e.g via:
    • tutors reporting back to the lecturer what students wanted discussed.
    • a 10 minute question session at the end of each lecture.

Tutorials must have varied in success, because comments about them varied considerably. One BA student, who named Irene Webley as his/her tutor, heaped praise on the tuts and said Pols III was the most efficiently run course s/he had done. But many complained of an apparent lack of contact between lecturer and tutors, and a disparity in essay marks between different tutors. (Essays did not count in the final grade).

About 10 students called for compulsory tuts! presumably so more students would attend and the discussion be livelier Les' idea is to have voluntary tuts and use the attendance level as an indicator of student approval, which seems to us to be a better idea.

Content: Most students agreed that it was an Introductory course with the characteristically broad, general coverage, at the expense of in-depth studies of particular topics. Most approved this, but naturally some students thought it was far too general.

Beyond that, not much can be said, because there was much disagreement about which parts should have been emphasised. Some wanted more on political concepts and ideologies - democracy, facism, Nazism, communism - which occupied only the last 3 weeks. Equally as many wanted less "isms." and more NZ politics and political history. Equally as many again wanted the mass media, advertising and propaganda topics emphasised. And some wanted to include Pacific politics and more on South East Asia. The course covered all these things (except Pacific politics), so at least the student disagreement served to show us what the course includes, and that it is very wide ranging.

Pols 317

Prof. Brookes: US Government
Organisation 4.20
Workload 3.00
Lecturer Convey info 3.60
Students' say 2.75
Recommend 2.00
Knowledge 4.80
Approachable 3.75
15 students, only 5 replies.

15 students took the course in 1975. Only 5 replied to the questionaire. Their comments were brief and not very helpful for future students.

2 students definitely thought the course useful, 2 thought it average, one made no reply and none said he/she disliked the course.

The comments of a few of the students indicate that 317 follows on from the 102 course on US Government, and it emphasised a historical rather than current day approach

Photo of a man

Murphy. 21-21-32. A flat lecturer?

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Pols 321 Pol. Psych.

Steven Levine: Political Psychology
Organisation 3.85
Workload 3.15
Lecturer Convey info 4.36
Students' say 3.15
Recommend 1.92
Knowledge 4.42
Approachable 3.71

Virtually all students found this course interesting and stimulating. The course was compared favourably to Psyc. Dept. The topics were generally appreciated as relevant both personally and in a wider social sense, but a greater emphasis on NZ content was desired. The extremely wide parameters of the course appealed to some and frustrated others. These students wishing to cover all the entire content had to read well be-yong a reasonable level for a 4 credit course However there was no pressure on students to do all this reading.

Teaching: Half of questionnaires had no improve mental suggestions to make - suggesting a general satisfaction with the methods. The informal and personal approach of the seminars was popular. More condensation of material, maybe previews or printed hand-outs of the general points in forthcoming seminars was suggested. The seminar approach unsatisfactory for those who hadn't covered the reading.

Hist 307

Joc Phillips and Phillida Bunkle: Life of the Mind in America.
Organisation 4.20
Workload 2.40
Students' say 3.00
Recommend 2.00
Joc Phillips Convey info 4.00
Phillida Bunkle Convey info 3.80
Knowledge 4.60
Approachable 4.20
Knowledge 4.80
Approachable 4.40
35 students enrolled, only 5 replies.

Since the questionnaires were not filled out in class time, we received a disappointingly low reply rate. The five replies were generally pleased with the course, saying that they felt the course useful, and a significant improvement on other courses they they had taken. One even described it as "truly amazing'.

Teaching: There were no lectures. Rather, students did reading and prepared weekly reports for tutorials/seminars. This arrangement made for a heavy workload, but but was considered much better than lectures and allowed the student responsible for the seminar to control it. Assessment was wholly in-term, based on written work.

Content: Not much was said here, except that it was "very interesting" and the assignment topics were flexible so that students could concentrate on areas of personal interest. One student said there was too much emphasis on the individualist psycho-analytical approach to intellectual history, and insufficient on the underlying social and economic conditions.

Hist 201

Colin Davis: Seventeenth Century Britain.
Organisation 4.17
Workload 3.10
Lecturer Convey info 4.40
Students' say 2.47
Recommend 1.98
Knowledge 4.85
Approachable 3.87
85 students enrolled, 52 replies.

Nearly all students thought highly of the course, describing it positively. Only nine were negative.

Teaching: A very clear trend emerged. Students thought that Colin Davis: had a formidably thorough knowledge of the subject matter (some said too thorough, and felt intimidated by it): was an excellent lecturer, but allowed too little time for discussion of the subject matter. This particularly came out in the organisation of tutorials, where, further, it was felt that having the tutorials related to the essay topics meant that only students who had done that essay would participate.

Content: No clear trends appeared here. Some common remarks included: criticism of the workload as too heavy for a 4 credit course; too much concentration on the complex detail of historical events in chronological order, with suggestions for more "analysis", more "thematic approach" and more in depth studies of particular topics. It was further felt that there was not enough scope for students to investigate areas they are personally interested in; and that there was too much emphasis on knowledge for the exam.

Hist 202

Miles Fairburn: Renaissance History.
Organisation 3.27
Workload 2.75
Lecturer Convey info 3.27
Students' say 2.29
Recommend 1.93
Knowledge 4.40
Approachable 4.29
60 students enrolled. only 16 replies.

From 60 students in the course we received only 16 replies. Of these almost all said nice things about the course, e.g. it was "interesting and thought provoking" and "stimulating," and "I enjoyed it for its own sake." Of the rest 2 said nothing and 2 described the course as "just average."

Teaching: According to the students. Miles Fairburn came across as a flamboyant lecturer. He was criticised for this because [unclear: flamboyaney] detracted from other qualities students tend to like in lecturers. e.g. they preferred a "more coherent structure" of lecture

  • "succint expression"
  • "distinct speech."
  • Many students complained of the lack of visual aids in a subject admirably suited to them. One student explained that Miles uses the literary and out works of the period as evidence for his arguments. Rather than describe the art works in his flamboyant style he should show slides or photographs, "a picture of the Sislene Chapel would leave a more accurate impression of Michaelangelo's solidarity." than was the flamboyant literary analysis that the lecturer relies on."
  • One student noted that lectures were monologues - with Miles staring at the ceiling and not noting raised hands. There were similar complaints about tuts. These were organised the same way as in 201 - ie they were related to essay topics so only students who had done that particular essay option were prepared. Result was, students were unable to contribute most of the time.
  • as usualy there were comments of "should be 6 credits", "not enough time" "the lecturer had to rush to cover all material."
  • there was no doubt that Fairburn knew his material very well.

Content: A fresh approach to history, examining it as an interaction of economic, political and artistic changes. One student was even surprised to find it relevant to present day.

  • Note that it covers only Italy - not, as the title may suggest, the whole of Europe.