The most fascinating thing about student evaluations of one's teaching is the passion with which students express their views. Usually for me, teaching general education mathematics courses, the student response to ``Stimulated my interest in the subject'' has a huge standard deviation. I am accustomed to this passionate divergence of opinion now. Given the large emotional and psychological load students bring to my classes, I find myself quite pleased when I average anything above a 3 (out of 5) on evaluations. My running average in such courses is about 4. Teaching Ph.D. courses in mathematics education, I typically have an evaluation score of between 4 and 5.
Evaluations of my teaching by peers are presented below, in §1.6.1 and a few undergraduate and graduate student comments are summarized in §1.6.2.
I have noticed that each time I start teaching at a new university, I must spend some time learning about the lives and personal worlds of my students. This is most especially so when many students are from privileged or middle-class, majority culture, backgrounds. My own background, steeped in socio-economic and cultural diversity, tends to be the most distinct from these groups. It takes me a semester or two to gather enough information from my students that I can modify my teaching sufficiently to reach them deeply, recognize and validate the nature of their experiences, and find ways to communicate mathematical and pedagogical ideas while fostering among them a critical engagement with the material. That I am at least partially successful is reflected in student comments and the various awards that have come my way (see curriculum vitae).
I know that by reflecting on my experiences as I have above I run the risk of drawing attention to the very small (though often vocal) minority of students for whom I am not an effective teacher. So, in my own best interests, I point out that the other 98% or so of the undergraduates I have taught have thought I was a ``fair, clear and concise teacher," who was ``an excellent instructor," ``interesting" and ``interested" as well as ``caring about students"...``available any time I needed her."
Table 1 below summarizes the history of student evaluations of my teaching - based on an amalgam of the (anonymous) Student Evalaution of Faculty forms students have completed at Arizona State University and the University of Northern Colorado7. Evaluations were administered to students in class by a proctor, in the absence of the instructor, during the penultimate week of each term. The average response rate for my classes was 85%. In general, the response rate in Math 120 seemed low, especially the first few times I taught the course, because many students who had stopped attending class did not withdraw from the course. Students were asked to rate faculty members on a five point scale: (5)Strongly Agree, (4)Agree, (3)Neutral, (2)Disagree, (1)Strongly Disagree. The evaluation forms all had small boxes that students filled in with pencil to indicate their choices.