of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Evaluations and Schwarzfahrer

If I were to evaluate students two weeks before the end of the semester, before the final projects were completed, and before everything comes together, I would be soundly criticized.  How can there be a valid evaluation given before the end of the semester?  Yet, I am required to ask students to evaluate me no later that two weeks before the end of the semester.  In effect, I am asked to collect data about the effectiveness of my teaching before the course plan can be realized.

Based on the work that some students were showing me earlier today, I would have no choice but to giving them failing grades.  Yet, I can see that these students–whether they realize it or not–are on course to receive 4.0s.

I do think that evaluation is important.  But I am not sure that evaluations done two weeks before the end of the semester are valid.

Tuesday I began some conversations with my ENG 102 students about how I had designed the course and changes I would make next semester.  These conversations have been very helpful. Unfortunately, the current evaluation process has no way to facilitate such conversations.

I plan to continue to talk to students–as I do at the end of each semester.  These conversations will better help me improve than does an evaluation that needs to be completed before the course is finished.

Today in my film class, I showed Schwarzfahrer in German at the beginning of my film class.  The lesson went even better than I had anticipated.  After screening the film, I asked students what the film was about.  They gave a very detailed analysis based on specific evidence from the film.  The only “problem” was that students identified the theme of the film as racism rather than xenophobia.  However, without knowing German it would have been impossible to realize that the woman was berating Turks, Poles, Italians, and foreigners in general as well as the man sitting next to her.

After our discussion, I gave students 30 minutes to do some research to set the film in an historical or cultural context. As expected, students came up with excellent material that they could incorporate into an analysis of Schwarzfahrer.  After that discussion, I pointed out to students if they could find credible research on a film in German for which they had no background that it should be much easier for them to find credible information on a film of their choice;  a film chosen by them because they had some preexisting interest or background concerning the film’s content.

Before the end of the class period, we did watch Schwarzfahrer with English subtitles.

I am looking forward to the next batch of film analyses that will be submitted next week.


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