We can move the class to meet you where you are
I would like to please everyone but try to at least move with the majority
An important part of this class was that I used mid-semester evals to sample the class’s feelings about how things were going. I aimed to change my teaching approach in response to the majority’s input. Why? Well, because I think that, as you grow as students of research-methods topics, you grow new needs and new skills that demand new exercises. The next quotation is an example of a student who was not ready for class to change, but the student admits that the change ended up being good after all.
“Although I have come to like how the debate worked and taught me how to look at papers, I cannot deny that my first reactions to unexpected things in the classroom is aversion instead of excitement of wanting to try something new. I wish I had adjusted to the new method quicker and more positively (at the beginning), I may have been able to get more out of the debates.”
And sometimes that learning feeling just takes a while to set in:
“I know this is super super late [Damian's edit: Not really, it was only during break after the semester.], but I want to thank you for giving me a great semester. Many things did not make sense until after I completed the course and saw what I have actually got from the class. I was visiting my AP statistics teacher last week and we were talking about some articles from a social science research institute. I am actually surprised by how much more I can talk about with him and how much I understand. I don't think I would have talked so much had I been taught in a traditional way.”
I suppose, like any prof, I hope that students can trust that even what doesn't make 100% sense immediately is probably good in the long run. Regrettably, there is no syllabus ever exhaustive enough to cover all of the possibilities and all of the absolute impossibilities. I intentionally omit any prescriptions of ‘how class will go’ from the syllabus because I don’t think we should be locked in to something that turns out not to work. The blessing of the small class sizes are that I can sample the opinions and really feel the feedback. The challenge of small class sizes may be that the silent few feel less empowered to complain. I don’t yet know how to make a mechanism to give the protest adequate airing or adequate change to class format.
I do feel that it is extremely difficult to please everyone, and grating on students’ preferences may cost all the more in a smaller crowd. In bigger classes of couple hundreds of students, I can imagine students seeing more easily how many people there are to please.