Thursday, January 22, 2009

How's My Teaching? FCQs

Today my FCQ scores arrived in my department mailbox. Almost exactly one year ago, after a semester teaching the same lab, I looked at the large envelopes with some mixture of anticipation and dread, and chose to stick them on my office bookshelf to go unexamined for some four months. This time, I rushed to my office to open the envelope.

It's not that I expected vast improvements in my scores, although I could certainly hope for them on the grounds that I had been more experienced, and had spent more time designing each section. It's more that the entire teaching experience had been more positive this time around. I was the senior TA, helping out a new grad student who hadn't even taught before; comps had its downsides, but my overall stress levels were definitely far less without a grant proposal to help with and a Master's thesis to complete; and teaching was something I knew I wanted to do, instead of something I should be trying. It would have been terrible to find that my FCQs were the same, of course (they weren't likely to get worse - that would require active dislike on the part of the students), but I'm feeling very optimistic about teaching this class for a third time, and would remain hopeful.

Fortunately, the scores are all a great deal better. Still near or slightly below department average, but a full point better on the six-point scale. My "instructor overall" rating has improved from 3.4 to 4.5. The score itself might not be much to brag about, but the improvement is. I could obsess over sampling size (only 13 of 22 students returned FCQs, and I only had one section instead of two), or I could focus on research showing that the best predictor of FCQ scores is whether your students like you as a person and would be willing to go on a long car drive with you. I don't really care either way. This has been the best possible start to my day.

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