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Bio 220 Evaluations for 2010 and 2011

I present feedback from students, as well as mentor and peer evaluations, and discuss how this feedback is shaping future directions in my teaching.

Biol 220W (Sophmore-level ecology course, ~70 students)




Rate the overall quality of the instructor



Rate the clarity of the instructor's presentation



Rate the instructor's skill in handling students questions



Rate the pacing of lectures



Rate the instructor's knowledge of the subject matter



Rate the organization of course material



Rate the instructor's preparation for class



Rate the clarity of syllabus



Rate the interest generated in subject matter



Rate the instructor's enthusiasm for the subject



Rate the instructor's apparent interest in teaching the course



Rate the importance of the knowledge learned in this course



Rate the effectiveness of the instructor in stimulating your thinking



Scale: 1 (Lowest) – 7 (Highest) For 2010, due to a processing error, the scores are combined for both my co-instructor and me.

According to Dr. Carla Hass, Acting Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Studies in Biology at Penn State, “Any scores over 5 in an intro level/larger course are good …you did great on enthusiasm and interest (you almost never see numbers above 6 except in smaller courses) , so getting a 6 is great). “


A selection of student comments from 2011 and 2010:

What helped you learn in this course?

  • Having small groups to bounce ideas in is very helpful (repeated several times)
  • Doing various activities allowed me to apply concepts to practical use (also repeated)
  • clicker questions
  • If I ever had a question, Dr. Rauschert always made sure to explain to me in details what the answer was and why.
  • I feel the lectures are the most helpful, the detailed presentations
  • The graphs and examples helped me learn the concepts well and make connections between lecture and lab.

What did you like most about this course?

  •  The in-class activities allowed a different way of learning the material (many similar repeats)
  • Dr. Rauschert was very enthusiastic about the material she taught us which was refreshing to most professors on campus that don’t show that same kind of passion. It was enjoyable to come into class based on that
  • I liked class participation and how easy it was to speak up and voice your knowledge and opinion. Dr. Rauschert did a great job of encouraging class participation and making me feel comfortable enough to raise my hand.
  •  The fact actual native species that we can see were used in demonstrations/examples. You could see the value of the course.
  •  Instructor was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. She definitely shows a love for teaching and creating a positive learning environment.
  • Grading is great with room for error. Thank you
  • The material was presented very clearly and Dr. Rauschert was dedicated to helping students understand. Examples were helpful and clicker questions were interesting and thoughtful
  • Well taught, prof. genuinely cared about students/subject matter

What suggestions can you offer for improving the course?

  • I would suggest more group activities. These activities get us talking and thinking amongst ourselves (repeated many times)
  • Clearer questions in assignments and clicker questions.
  •  Change the multiple choice questions so there aren’t so many. I found them challenging to comprehend at times and we had 30 multiple choice to get through
  • In the future, show more videos; they really help to break up the class and help to reinforce the material.

Review of teaching video Spring semester 2010 by FIRST IV team leader

  • I can see that you are working towards a student-centered classroom. You have a good rapport with the students; I could see that you know them all and that they felt comfortable answering your questions.
  • I thought you did a good job having students explain why different answers to the clicker questions were correct or incorrect. You also do a good job facilitating class discussion by asking series of questions.

Things identified as needing improvement:

  • For clicker questions: try to write some questions that make the students think about some new material or make predictions. You almost always tell them the correct answer right after they vote. Consider having them talk to each other then vote again.
  •  During the lecture portion, you showed many graphs and explained what each graph showed (I know this is strongly ingrained from our research presentations). Consider having students (in teams) figure out what the graph shows and reporting out to each other.

Review of teaching video Spring semester 2010 by FIRST-IV peers

  • Emily did a great job at fielding student explanations for each of the possible answers and for answering a question with another question. Left the students to do much of the explanation. Great positive response to students, easy to hear and be engage by, seemed interested and encouraging.
  • interactive, going through all the incorrect choices to eliminate by having students explain
  • encouraging, looking for ways in which students are right

Needing improvement

  • rather than tell students the correct answer immediately after graphing student responses, ask students to explain/defend their answers first


Overall, I think that I made important progress as a teacher in these two semesters, and students appreciated these efforts, as evidenced by high numeric scores and positive comments. Working in groups and having many activities seems to be particularly important to students. There are several areas I would like to work on for the future. I am working on having higher cognitive level clicker questions. I’ve also decided to cut down on the number of graphs I show in a class, because it will take more time to have students explain what they show.  This will also address comments some students had about there being too many examples. I will expand a unit at the beginning of the class on interpreting data to better prepare them, and I will ask students to discuss graphs in small groups more often in lecture. There will be more in-class activities, based on the approximately 90% positive response to this. As much as possible, students want these to be exciting, relevant for real-life problems, conceptually well-integrated with lecture material and fun.