Archive for October 19th, 2008

Improving your teaching by soliciting early feedback

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

The student surveys at the end of the semester are too late to help you fine-tune your teaching that term, but you can solicit feedback from students early enough to make midcourse corrections.

HOW TO ASK: You can set up an online survey through Blackboard or Survey Monkey. You could pass out a paper form. You could even ask students to tear out a sheet of paper and answer a few questions. Make clear to students that you are asking them for feedback because you care about their perspectives.

WHEN TO ASK: Ask students for feedback once or twice, at a point when you have the time to analyze the results and quickly let students know what you have learned (and what you might change, or not).

WHAT TO ASK: Ask the questions you want answered from a student perspective. One colleague at USF simply asks students to write a plus sign at the top of a notebok page and a delta sign in the middle and tell her what works well and what needs changing. Other colleagues have a number of questions about presentations, discussions, readings, and so forth. Ask few questions if you want in-depth answers on each. Ask more questions if you do not need long answers, but we recommend having at least one open-ended question. Make clear to students whether the information is anonymous (e.g., state explicitly if a Blackboard survey will tell you which students participated and what the responses were, but not which response was provided by which student).

ANALYZING THE RESULTS: You can quickly sort answers into functional categories—What you should and can change this term, what you could change in another term, and what common concern needs to be discussed though you will not change it.

REPORTING BACK TO STUDENTS: As early as possible after the survey, you should report back to students with the results. You can report distributions on quantitative questions; you can report
themes from open-ended items. But you should always thank the students for their participation and tell them what you can change this semester, what might change in a later semester, and (ALWAYS!) what common requests cannot be accommodated and why not. And, finally, repeat your appreciation that they provided feedback in the middle of the semester.

My thanks to Diane Williams of the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence for providing feedback on a draft.


Priscilla Brewer

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

From the former and current chair of Humanities and American Studies:

Dear Colleagues,

We are very sorry to inform you that our friend and colleague, Dr. Priscilla Brewer, Professor of American Studies, passed away on October 6 at about 6:00 a.m. She had been fighting cancer for several months and, though very recently she seemed to be winning the battle, a sudden turn of events changed all that.

This is a huge loss. Not only was Priscilla a friend for whom we all felt immense affection, she was a real department “trooper,” who would do almost anything to help students and colleagues. Her courses were demanding and no one got a grade from her they didn’t earn. She willingly taught lectures capping in the hundreds, and no matter how high the cap was, the courses filled, even though students registering would knew they would have to work like crazy even to get a “C.” The graduate students she mentored and who taught for us as TAs and often, later, as adjuncts, had the greatest respect for and deepest devotion to her. They are as devastated by this as we are, as many of you will be as you get this news.

Priscilla was a thorough, meticulous scholar with two very successful and substantial books to her credit. One dealt with the Shakers and the other focused on the development of the cast iron stove and its impact on American family life and social history. A third book, dealing with student life in Northern women’s colleges at the turn of the century, was in progress.

The loss can’t be calculated, but we are grateful for what we had: Priscilla’s work, intelligence, energy, and generosity, which has touched so many of us in so many positive ways.

A memorial service to honor Priscilla’s life has been scheduled for Thursday, October 23rd. It will begin at 5:30pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church., 11400 Morris Bridge Road. A memory book will be available and a potluck reception will follow the service.


Dan Belgrad
Silvio Gaggi


Early voting begins tomorrow!

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

A complete list of West Central Florida Federation of Labor endorsements cover all of the counties in the Tampa Bay region and dozens of races. The top of the ticket is the presidential race, and all of our affiliates have endorsed Barack Obama, the Democratic Party nominee.

Early voting starts Monday, October 20. To find out your nearest early-voting locations, there is a simple form at the Vote for Change website. There is still time to request a mail-in ballot, and you do NOT need to trust the U.S. mails. You can personally deliver your mail-in ballot to your county’s Supervisor of Elections office. (You cannot bring mail-in ballots to voting places.)