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2 posts from July 2010


Interview with British science writer Marcus Chown

I recently had the fantastic opportunity to interview British science writer Marcus Chown on the blogging "talk show" Bloggingheads.tv. The topic was his new book "The Matchbox that Ate a Forty-Ton Truck." As I am a long-time fan of his writings in New Scientist, and really enjoyed his book, it was a wonderful experience getting a chance to chat with him. He seems very down-to-earth, and has a gift for explaining difficult topics in a very visual, tangible manner. Marcus's story about physicist Richard Feynman's letter to his mother is priceless. It is toward the end of the interview. Here is a link to the video chat: Interview with Marcus Chown on Bloggingheads.tv


Faculty reflect on student evaluations

Since faculty take student comments very seriously, it is appropriate to consider how to review the comments from students.  Many faculty get upset with a lone, below the belt and inappropriate comment and over-react to it.  It is important to look at patterns and trends and not just isolated comments or numbers.  Further, some comments need to be unpacked to be understood.  For example, if students write that the course was challenging, is that a complement or a negative remark?  Courses can be challenging because they made the student work hard, learn a lot or really stretch them.  Courses can also be challenging because the course appeared disorganized or was over the student’s head.  To find out what students mean you might want to conduct some follow-ups with the students or ask the next class to help you understand comments.

It is always a good idea to gather some of your own formative feedback on your teaching and not just rely on the standard course evaluations.

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