[lit-ideas] Re: Pausing Philosophically for Coffee off the B9086, with Tammie Norries

  • From: "Walter C. Okshevsky" <wokshevs@xxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2011 15:09:39 -0230

Let it be heard and known, far and wide, including galaxies far far away, that
Walter has completed all final grading of exams, papers, participation logs,
etc and is now teaching- and service- free until mid-January of the next year
of our lord! 

Grad grades in the Education ethics course ranged from 42 to 95 (yes, %).
Consequently, a few principals and teachers will not be enjoying this wonderful
mid-August sunshine we're getting. My undergrads did quite well: nobody failed,
grades ranged from 63 to 94. (Heather, who argued vehemently in class one day
that one can gerrymander maxims any way one wished to get universalizability,
received the lowest grade in the class, of course. Poor kid. And she had such a
bright future.)

Ah yes, course evaluations. Our undergrads write them less than one week before
their final exam. Because Walter does not tell them the answers to the essay
questions on the exams, nor does he tell them the questions, many are quite hot
and bothered by this totally unusual amd seemingly illegitimate pedagogy and
evaluation strategy. Thus can you imagine some of the responses I receive on
course evaluations. Fortunately, I'm tenured. (Which if you think about it, is
probably the major rationale for tenure. Any arguments against tenure? I'd hate
to be a prof in the UK, after all.)

I do get some assessments of the kind that "Bob Paul" gets: 

- "Walter is a very good teacher who cares about his students' learning."

- "He's a hard marker, but he's fair."

- "Walter will never insult any student's intelligence."

- "Professor Okshevsky knows alot about his subject area and has a talent for
teaching it to others with little knowledge of the area."

- "Dr. O allows us to resubmit our drafts of the paper if we want a higher
grade. Not many profs do that. Why not?"

- "Sir Walter is almost always available for a meeting in his office to discuss
problems we're having with course material or our progress on our class
presentation and paper."

- "Doc OK took time to meet with me in his office to discuss my midterm and
plot strategies to ensure that my performance on the final is much better."

And because teaching, like life itself, is a dialectic, I also receive the
following kinds of comments:

- "It's over." (Response to the question: "What is the best part of this

- "Only to my worst enemy." (Response to the question: "Would you recommend
this course to other students?)

Other comments (undergrads):

- "This course is totally irrelavant [sic] to classroom teaching and I don't
know why it is a reqired [sic] course for my degree in teacher training."

- "I didn't pay for a course where students teach half of it through
presentations. And I don't really need to know what my 'colleagues' think about
stuff." If Dr. Olshewsky [sic] doesn't have enough material to cover a 12 week
course, he shouldn't be teaching it."

- "Stuff about moral reasoning, democratic delebiration [sic] may be important
to adminsitrators [sic] in schools, but actual teachers in the classroom don't
need to know that and there's so much else we need to learn, like classroom
management, differential learning styles and special needs. This course
shouldn't be required"

- "This course is a total waste of time and money. With all the learning
outcomes from government that we need to cover in our teaching, I don't see the
point of looking at things like arguements [sic] for validity and soundness or
whatever, or naturalist [sic] fallacies or all that Habermas stuff on

- "Stuff about cultural relativism and postmodernism has nothing to do with our
learning about how to get students to learn provincially prescribed learning
outcomes. There may be stuff going on in France and other places about veils
and hiqabs [sic] but here in Canada we keep politics out of the classroom and
focus on real-life practical teaching."

Thus do I stay in the provinces,


Quoting Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>:

> David Ritchie writes
> > Today I finally got round to reading last semester's student comments.  The
> first student's response was pretty awful.  Why didn't I give them any
> opportunity to get feedback on their drafts?  And why was it a lecture course
> rather than a seminar?  And why was it so boring?  Coming to the end of this
> sheet, I realized that this particular student not only probably hadn't done
> the reading (and thus had nothing to say on the subjects under discussion in
> our seminars), but probably had not even read the syllabus.  The syllabus
> explains that drafts can be handed in at any time and that feedback will be
> given in class every single week.  After that little piece of joy, the others
> were a nice surprise, extolling my many and various virtues.  The good thing
> about the new system of sending them as e mail attachments is that I get to
> keep these beauties for reference in times of gloom.
> Ah, so we're evaluating evaluations. At Reed the students evaluate their 
> teachers at the end of a course, as well. They give numerical scores on 
> what seems to be a generic form, and students' individual scores are 
> summed up and averaged to produce a number for each item, e.g. 
> 'instructor's preparation for class' (at least three cups of coffee, 
> more for an afternoon class); 'papers/tests returned on time'; 
> 'usefulness of instructors comments and responses to my work,' and seven 
> other police academy items. These are given in to the Deans and 
> committees that withhold or grant promotions, 'merit increases,' and 
> other censures and rewards. (This is all black ops.)
> There are also, the 'open-ended forms,' on which students write brief 
> comments in response to several prompts. These are unsigned, and given 
> to the instructor. I'll quote from some of those from my Aesthetics and 
> Criticism course in the fall of last year. There were ten students in 
> it, all juniors and seniors.
> A. What did you /like bes/t about the course? What (sic) aspects (sic) 
> of the course would you like to see retained?
> My favorite response, by far, was:
> 'You! Bob Paul! I love your approach to philosophy...'
> There were some other heartening ones along the same lines:
> 'Bob's pedagogical methodology is really fantastic---his fairness toward 
> & willingness to engage with students is truly genuine & unique, even at 
> Reed.'
> 'The professor, the readings.'
> 'Bob Paul's approach to philosophy: very open and supportive. He wants 
> you to struggle in the best sense: you aren't learning it if you aren't 
> struggling.'
> However, six people said that I should control the discussion more, so 
> that a few didn't dominate it. I do control it. Somewhat. But as this 
> was a 'conference,' the Reed name
> for a class in which there is mostly discussion and very little 
> presentation from behind the lectern (we sit around tables, anyway), I 
> left it up to the discussants to comport
> themselves with fairness and charity. Which they mostly did. One student 
> though wrote, 'In my opinion, Bob should have lectured more.' Some liked 
> the early readings, some
> liked the 'middle' ones, and some thought the later readings the best. I 
> think most instructors, like me, see in these 
> possibly-career-making/breaking reports, what they
> want to see. If one breaks even as the years go by, one should not ask 
> for more.
> Remember: if it's easy for you, you probably don't get it. Whatever it is.
> Robert Paul
> Sometime Lecturer
> Mutton College

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