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Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


ALMQUIST, Katherine1, GALLEN, Sean1, HUGHES, K. Stephen2, LYDA, Andrew1, LYONS, Nathan1, MCCONNELL, David A.1, ROSS, Kristen1 and WHITLEY, Jonathan1, (1)Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, 2800 Faucette Drive, Rm. 1125 Jordan Hall, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, (2)Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, 2800 Faucette Drive, Rm. 1125 Jordan Hall, Raleigh, NC 27695,

Student feedback is one of the primary methods used to evaluate college courses. However, these evaluations may be reflecting some factors outside of the teacher’s control. We analyzed anonymous student evaluations for 59 Physical Geology lab classes taught by graduate teaching assistants (TAs) between Fall 2008 and Spring 2010. The evaluations were composed of a series of 18 statements. The first nine statements are about the instructor, while the second dealt with the course. Statements are ranked using a Likert scale ranging from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Completing course evaluations is not mandatory, and only those 59 sections with a minimum 40% response rate were used in this study.

During the first two semesters, the lab was taught in a traditional style dominated by TA lectures, reading and fill-in-the-blank exercises. From Fall 2009 onward, labs were converted to active learning labs that included multiple hands-on group exercises. During both time periods, labs were taught morning, afternoon and evening each day of the week. Students select the time and day of the lab they enroll in, but do not know which TA will teach their class until the first week of the semester.

Students consistently give higher overall scores to the TA than to the course. Female TAs and their lab sections are consistently ranked higher than male TAs. Instructors receive slightly lower scores when teaching in the morning than in the afternoon, but the morning labs themselves are ranked higher. Evening labs and instructors receive significantly higher scores than any other time. Wednesday labs and instructors receive the highest scores, while Fridays get the lowest. TAs who taught in active learning labs were evaluated lower on average than those who taught in the traditional labs.

Some of these differences are small, but all are consistent across a large dataset. Factors out of a teacher’s control can result in a significant change in how well a student perceives material is being explained.

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