Information Sheet #23

February 1, 1989

ANOTHER APPROACH TO COURSE AUTOPSIES

Since the Coe faculty is considering the adoption of a new course evaluation form, it might be an opportune moment for contemplating some ways that short writing assignments can help instructors better understand what is happening in their classes. While the proposed "official" evaluation form is designed for an end-of-term autopsy, these more informal invitations to examine a course are probably most useful if offered at mid-term, hopefully before the onset of rigor mortis.

Perhaps one goal for any mid-term course appraisal is to obtain from students some honest information about what they sense "is going on" in the course. Instead of asking for their judgments, ask for their perceptions and descriptions. Such a writing opportunity enables them to be reflective and thoughtful about their classroom experiences, perhaps increasing their awareness of what they've learned, how they've learned it, and what it means.

In the following list are some questions that could be used for either an in-class or out-of-class assignment in the middle of a term. Most of the questions are taken from A Community of Writers, a new Random House textbook by Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff.

1a. Which moments come to mind when you think back over out first ____ weeks of class? good moments? bad moments? perplexing moments? sketch in two or three such moments.

1b. What do these moments tall about you as a student, about the teacher, and about the course?

2. What do you feel good about concerning your own effort or accomplishment in the course? What are you not satisfied with, or what do you want to work on improving?

3. What are the most important strengths of skills you brought to this course?

4.What aspect of this course has been the greatest challenge for you?

5. What has been the most important thing you've learned? Have any ideas in the course surprised you? Have you learned some things you had not expected to encounter?

6. What so you most need to learn next?

7. Imagine this course as a journey: where is it taking you? Or imagine it as a detour or setback in some larger journey. Explain.

8. Describe the climate and weather of the course. Has it remained the same or gone through cycles? Or imagine the course as a machine or living organism. Explain.

9. Do you have any suggestions about how the course could be made more helpful?


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