Evaluation woes: undergrads v. post-bacs

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caryatid:
Hi folks!  Long-time weekly lurker here ... But I learn so much from my lurking!

Help please! I have searched the fora for discussions related to my question, and I have not found any, so I thought I would go ahead and ask here. I am a fairly new asst. prof. in a teacher education program. My evaluations from my undergraduates have been stellar, above the department average, and generally make me giddy with delight (comments such as "Dr. C is the best at the college," "I learned so much," "Dr. C. is very enthusiastic and knows the material," "Dr. C is the type of teacher I would like to emulate," and so forth).

However, my post-bac students (students who already have a B.S. or B.A. and are in a 1.5 year teaching certification program, many of whom are career changers/"returning students") do not seem to enjoy my class as much as the undergrads (at least according to the evals).  Both classes are discussion-oriented with smaller group discussions, I use Blackboard for submitting assignments, I attempt to dazzle with video, creative assignments, etc.  I do have at least one or two post-bacs who approach me after class and tell me how much they enjoyed the class, but those comments of course never end up on the evals. The post-bacs generally leave few qualitative comments, and the eval scores are lower across the board.  My suspicion is that returning to school (and becoming a teacher) has proved not to be as easy as they thought it would be. Just to clarify, I teach the first course they take in the program ... an educational studies class that focuses on history and theory.  The rare qualitative remark tends to be "Dr. C is opinionated and idealistic and does not understand the realities of teaching in a public school."  I am guessing that this refers to my critical stance on most education policies.

My hunch is that the post-bacs work all day and just don't want to (or don't have time to) do the primary and secondary readings and the reaction papers that I assign weekly.  I am considering switching to in-class written midterm, final, and two short papers, although this will of course not encourage them to keep up with the readings or participate in discussions like the weekly reaction papers do (which has been a hot topic on some of the discussions here lately). But it will make my grading life easier...

Has anyone else experienced this type of thing?  Are post-bac students just less enthusiastic about school in general? It seems counterintuitive to me.  Perhaps this is a College of Education thing?

Thank you for reading my very long email. I appreciate any comments or suggestions from more experienced faculty. I am revamping my class for the spring, and I am willing change things up so that they post-bacs have a better experience.  By the way, most students earn As in the course, so I don't think they are out for revenge.

Cheers!!! (please excuse typos, etc.  I haven't had my first coffee yet.)

heywhynots:
Just to clarify, I teach the first course they take in the program ... an educational studies class that focuses on history and theory.  The rare qualitative remark tends to be "Dr. C is opinionated and idealistic and does not understand the realities of teaching in a public school."  I am guessing that this refers to my critical stance on most education policies.
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How would they know about the realities of teaching in a public school if this is the first class they have in the program? 

Must say the comment is one critique retroactively my wife has of her education professors in college.  Too many didn't have experience teaching, especially in an urban setting. A number of the ideas covered in the college courses worked great when teaching those of privilege but did not work in classrooms where most of the students were on free or reduced lunch.  She found a lot of what was taught was data based on evidence based.

mythbuster:
    Post-bacs may be more "critical" in terms of giving out top marks on you eval surveys than undergrads. I know that I now rarely ever give out the top score on any survey as I assume implies near perfection. You also might just need to point blank request that they add in written comments. Our evals give a very small space for written comments, so I include my own "survey" that is all written comments along with the Scantron form.
   I wouldn't change the set up of your course unless you teach majority post-bac students and getting good evals is a do or die sort of thing. Have you had other comments from these students during the semester to confirm your thought that they are overwhelmed with being back in school?

mediumrare:
Just from my limited experience with friends who have been or are post-bac students.. (I'm a grad student)

Most post-bacs tend to be students who wanted to get accepted into an MA or PhD but didn't get accepted for the season and they're waiting around, taking some courses to stave off the student-loan repayments. Or they are trying to bump up their GPAs so they become better applicants for the grad programs they're interested in. Or they're taking post-bac courses while they are looking for a "real" job but in the mean time they can toy with the possibility of going back to school. They are (generally) unhappy people. The post-bac situation tends to be a "place holder" kind of thing until their life can actually begin ie. with a "real" job or admittance into a grad program.

Plus, they are often frustrated, not with you, but with themselves (for having messed up their GPA) or with the university system (which they see as holding them back). It's not your fault, but you might be getting the brunt of their frustration at having to retake a course they've already taken or having to take a course they're not really interested in etc.

hegemony:
It could also be that you are opinionated and idealistic and do not understand the realities of teaching in a public school.  It sounds as if there may be a mismatch between what you're telling them and how they perceive things.  This might be a cue to look for ways to help them see your point of view, and perhaps to ask them to help you see theirs.  It's true that sometimes evaluations are off-based and cranky and don't address the real situation.  But it's worth trying to figure out if taking the criticisms seriously would help alleviate the problem.

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