At the midyear point in our science department, we are ending semester-long courses while also taking a moment to reflect on the first half of year-long courses. After working with faculty in our department to consider the student responses, I was struck by an interesting paradox; good feedback can sometime mean bad teaching!
By categorizing some teaching as "bad", I realize that I'm providing push back on the "traditional/teacher-centric" teaching model and in doing so, I might be deemed a bit harsh. But this theme that I first began to recognize as a classroom evaluator last year has only become more apparent through the year. Students in classes that are taught through a small range of learning and teaching methodologies; most of which include lecture, fact based testing and recipe-type laboratories are often scored highly by students at the end of the semester particularly when that sort of class is by teachers who are recognized as "fun" or "flexible". On the other hand, classrooms that are innovative and employ a wide range of teaching styles (thereby demanding and taking advantage of a variety of learning styles) can sometimes receive lower student evaluation marks. And yet by the standards of educators, students are doing much more work with critical thinking, open-ended questions and problem solving that does not prescribe a single solution. In these classes, it seems that students are being pushed beyond the normal confines of comfort and consequently, must wind up doing more work to see those connections through. This has always been a significant consideration as educators seek to engage students with this type of work; not only does it require significantly more work to develop these lesson plans, but... it also requires commitment from our students. Spoon fed information, in bite-sized portions is much easier. But it's not better, is it?!? I guess it depends on who you ask!