The following evaluations span several years, and are from a variety of types of courses. All evaluations that I have access to are included, except uninformative positive ones (short ones with no details). Names and personally identifiable information have been removed.
“This is the third time Jonathan assisted me during this course and each time he has progressively been more engaged with the students, either through providing discussion and verbal help, being an example and showing good field work ethic, and working with individuals on problems or exploring deeper topics. He also has refined his way of interacting with students, and now has a unique way to engage them, question them, and pull them forward into understanding. Jonathan is very, very responsible and I often would trust him with instructor-level responsibilities in many cases regarding this course, which is logistically challenging, or any other. However, Jonathan has one area of weakness, regarding teaching, that he should work on– and no doubt will continue to do so– which is pro-active teaching or being a little more aggressive to engage the quiet students. This was never a problem during this course, but it could be a problem for him as a lead instructor.”
-Samuel Castonguay (Faculty instructor)
The constructive criticism at the end of this comment is something I’m aware of, and actively working on. Every time I get in front of a class I get a little bit better at engaging the more reserved students. My limited experience, and introverted personality make this difficult, but I improve with practice. It is definitely something I am continuing to work on.
In this course, the whole class lived and worked together, but was split across two mapping areas, so several reviews are from students who I only interacted with outside of the field.
“JPH was helpful and informative w/ the occasional well-timed joke.”
“JPH got the mapping on lock. Very helpful in the field.”
“Very helpful in the field, and knowledgeable in his field.”
“JPH was a great help in the field and in camp. He was always there to answer questions.”
“Smart, humble, and always thinking ahead on the progression of the group’s needs.”
“I didn’t get to work with Jonathan in this section, but he’s a nice guy and would help me out whenever I asked. I really enjoyed having him around for this section.”
“Jonathan was really helpful in the field. He knows his stuff, and helped us when we lost our way.”
“Jonathan was extremely knowledgeable, an absolute pleasure to work with, a great teacher, and very helpful and hard working. I would love the opportunity to work with him in the future, and would recommend him to any teaching or research position.”
“Didn’t interact much with Jonathan, but he seemed well organized, ready to help, and knew his geology.”
“Jonathan, you were a cool GTF in the field. You were helpful when we had questions, and it helped that you have been in the area prior.”
“JPH was an all around class act! Bummed our section didn’t get to work with him.”
“This guy knew his sh*t. If I asked him a question, his answer would probably be close to Sammy’s in accuracy.”
“Wonderful GTF. Very helpful and nice. Wish we could have had him at Block Mountain.”
I didn’t lead any lab sections for this course, so I only received an evaluation from the instructor.
“Jonathan was responsible for grading home works in Fluid Dynamics, holding office hours, and assisting with lab. He additionally gave a full guest lecture when I was out of town, on the topic of scaling and dimensional analysis. He used my prepared lecture notes, but also supplemented with an in-class exercise of his own design (that I thought was rather clever). Jon’s grading was thorough and careful, not only marking up assignments but providing comments on each homework to explain why points were taken off. I do not know how effective he was during office hours, and do know that his office hours were less well attended than mine. But overall I was very pleased with his performance and would gladly have him TA this course again.”
I led two lab sections for this course. Evaluations from both are combined here.
This course has by far the most negative evaluations I’ve ever received. Almost all of them are about the content and organization of the course as a whole. The primary concern was disconnect between the lectures and labs, and my inadequate preparation for leading lab. Although most of those concerns address things that were out of my control, in retrospect I realize I should have been more proactive to encourage the instructor to prepare the lab assignments further in advance.
“Jonathan should have been given labs with ample time for him to work through/ identify errors within the lab. Additionally, answer keys could have been provided from the course instructor prior to lab. This lack of preparation was no fault of Jonathan’s.”
“Jonathan led the lab very well, but sometimes did not know the subjects he taught as well as needed. This made it a little hard to get help in office hours.”
“Jonathan is approachable; he has a relaxed and rather subdued demeanor. He works with students and walks them through difficult concepts.
Sometimes there was little to no introduction before the lab was handed out. A little more instruction might have been helpful (I do realize it’s hard to do that in a 50-min lab).”
“Just please make the labs 2 hours long.”
“Jonathan often did not receive the labs until just before the lab period, needs to be more informed and therefor able to be more helpful on labs, seemed disorganized often.”
“Instructor was informative, but there was a notable disconnect of communication between the instructor and professor. Instructor frequently was given labs the day of and didn’t entirely know what was happening–this was a fault of the professor more-so.”
“It always seemed like Jonathan was just looking at the slides for the first time when he was giving us the introduction to the labs. But, then again, maybe he didn’t receive them in advance haha.”
“Hard grader. Great at explaining concepts. Really knew the material. However I felt belittled when I asked how to do problems involving formulas, which I think resolved toward the end of the class, once he realized that I and other students weren’t simply asking for the answer. There seemed to be a disconnect between what Jonathan thought we should know vs what we actually knew. Also, I’d like to point out that while some students may benefit from learning how a problem works form one angle, other students may benefit from learning how a problem works from a different angle. i.e. learning to plug and chug with a formula actually helps me orient myself in a problem so that I can better understand the mechanics of the problem next.”
This is the most informative critical review from this class. It was signed, so I know who the reviewer was, and we’ve interacted positively since then (including field camp, 2017, for which this student left a positive evaluation). The specific issue discussed in this comment is of continuing interest to me. This student very strongly prefers to be shown rote derivations of mathematical problems before working on higher level understanding. I understand the appeal of this method from a student perspective, but I’m skeptical of its merit. At the time I was teaching this class, I was also participating in a reading group where we read the book “Make it Stick”, which specifically addresses the ineffectiveness of rote learning. That likely influenced the way I handled this students requests, and led to the negative review.
Partly because of this review, and the recognition that although rote learning doesn’t help retention, it may improve confidence, I’m currently designing a small experiment to test the efficacy of this approach in the context of introducing mathematical modeling to the intro geology sequence. I will provide two lab sections with parallel modules, meant to be evaluated by the same assessment on the final exam. The more effective module will then become standard for the course going forward.
All that aside, I never like to hear that I made someone feel uncomfortable, or ‘belittled’. This student and I ended up coming to an understanding, but I am now more cautious to avoid making bad impressions in the first place, because of this review. I am also more trusting of students metacognitive evaluation of their learning preferences, and will be more careful when I advocate for proven learning strategies in the future.
“He knew the material very well and was open to helping students”
“Helpful and knowledgeable.”
“He was really helpful in providing diagrams that could help understand the concepts of the labs. He was also very flexible with his time schedule in order to accommodate extra office hours in case we needed help on the assignments.”
“Great lab Jonathan is a knowledgeable and helpful teacher who made every step along the way easier. His office hours were the most helpful out off all of them. I’m talking both homework and labs helped so much.”
“Jonathan was great! He made the labs fun and was extremely helpful. He was definitely instrumental in my understanding of the subject.”
“Strengths: You’re hella smart and approachable
improvement: Maybe be a little more assertive to make us listen to you better?”
“Jonathan was very helpful in the respect that he was able to help me understand concepts I found difficult without simply giving me the answer to problems I didn’t understand. Perhaps coordinating a little more with the professor could have been helpful because some of the material were were expected to know in lab we had not covered fully in class.”
“Jonathan dedicated a lot of time outside of lab and in his office hours helping students finish assignments.”
“Jonathan is very helpful and always guides me in the right direction. Perhaps the professor-GTF connection could have been a little stronger but otherwise he did a great job”
“JPH was helpful, but standoffish. He should keep in mind that, though we’re in a camp situation, “bad talking” students is not acceptable.
He didn’t help w/ students, and especially my concerns toward group / camp life, and instead made me feel ashamed / bad for having opinions.
This review has changed my teaching more than any other. It was particularly striking to me because I felt like I had a positive experience with (almost*) all of the students, and discovered too late that I was making somebody uncomfortable. I do not know who wrote it.
The social aspects of field camp are sort of unique, because instructors live with students in the field for multiple weeks at a time. When I TA’d field camp in 2014, 2015, and 2016 I intentionally tried to be a friend to the students, which comes through in the other evaluations for this course. But this review has made me much more conscious of the professionalism that’s expected of an instructor.
In courses like field camp where socialization is a first-order learning objective, it is important that instructors remain neutral in interpersonal dynamics in order to mediate disputes. I suspect that the miscommunication that led me to miss this significant negative experience happened because the student felt that I was too close to the drama of camp life to be an approachable, neutral party. This balance between approachability and professionalism is not easy for me, but is something I’ve identified as an important professional development goal, and has guided my interactions with students in subsequent courses. See student and instructor evaluations of field camp, 2017 for comparable evaluations.
* There was one disruptive student who made camp life difficult for everybody, but I don’t think this review was from that student. If anything, I suspect that my inability to handle that student effectively may have contributed to this reviewer’s feelings.
Specifically, this student’s particular type of disruptions were atypical in that they were very intentional, and therefore not easy to redirect as I would try with most disruptive students. My approach was to keep an eye on the student, and intervene by trying to fix the situation before the others had to deal with the consequences.
Because I felt unequipped to work with the student directly on the source of the problems, I decided to avoid a confrontation that I might not be able to handle. Some students appreciated this approach, but I suspect that the indirect nature of it led some students to feel like I was not active enough with my intervention. In retrospect I think I did the right thing by avoiding confrontation with this student, but I should have made it more clear to the others that the problem was on my radar, and that I was actively working on it.
“Jonathan worked hard, and was very helpful, especially with questions from students. He maintained a good attitude throughout the course.”
“Jonathan was one of the most helpful, friendly, and organized GTF’s I have had since coming to college and I cannot stress how necessary he was to both sections he taught.”
“Jonathan was great and very helpful with a lot of questions relating to what needed to be done in the field”
“Very intelligent and helpful, great to have around camp”
“Great with answering questions and was awesome helping out and organizing camp.”
“Jonathan was direct and to the point. He provided his knowledge on the subject matter.”
“Jonathan was not only helpful throughout both sections, but he was very fun to be around. He was always easy to relate to and I appreciated having him around as a GTF.”
“Jonathan did a lot to help out around field camp, and was an awesome guy to be around. I enjoyed spending two different sessions of field camp with him.”
“The ultimate GTF. So level headed and respectful. Healed my wounds several times with first aid skills.”
“Very informative and remarkably precise with his descriptions, JPH was a good, mild-mannered GTF who was quite helpful. Thank you very much, Jonathan!”
“JPH was the MVP of GTF’s. He was very helpful during group work and was a great addition to the field camp.”
“Jonathan extended himself time and time again in helping students with group work, and explaining course material.
He maintained a positive attitude while simultaineously acknowledging that one disruptive student made course and group work more difficult for everyone involved.
Jonathan was a pleasure to be around.”
This evaluation refers to the disruptive student mentioned in the negative review at the top. See my comments there for a description of how I dealt with this situation, and how I would change in the future based on that experience.
This is the first course in which I received direct student evaluations. I led two lab sections. Responses from both are combined here.
Unfortunately, these negative reviews don’t give me much to work with. I’m including them here for transparency, but don’t have much to comment on from them.
“Did not seem like he knew what was going on in the course.”
“He knew what he was talking about and knew the material well, but he didn’t make the lab any more interesting or fascinating.”
“I liked the fact that he explained what the focus was for each lab section, and explained assignments (particularly for the term project) in ways that made them seem less difficult. He was also willing to help with everything we did, which was appreciated.”
“Jonathan is a really nice guy and I think he did a nice job with the section. I think it would be helpful to make more of an emphasis to have a bit of a discussion as a class about the topic before starting the worksheets.”
“[Jonathan] was very patient and good at guiding us through the assignments and worksheets we had to do in the discussion.”
“Helpful and seemed to really enjoy the subject he was teaching us.”
“Very good at communicating what was expected and required of us.”
“It was very casual and easy to talk in. Possibly could have some more activities or something that could stimulate more conversation.”
“Jonathan was a great GTF. Very easy to communicate with and left a lot of feedback on graded work which was very helpful. Knew about the curriculum and engaged students in in-class discussions.”