Summary of end of semester comments
taught by Peter Taylor
Bio8, Swarthmore College, Fall 1997

Student comments
Extracted by PT from paragraph commentaries written by 11 of the 14 students.
Students were asked to make comments both to help me develop the course in the future and to enable some third party to appreciate the course's strengths and weaknesses. Given this broad mandate, the number of times different students mentioned something does not measure how many students would have also agreed with it if asked directly.

Students appreciated...
wide variety of learning approaches 7 (vs. perhaps more constant class format)
critical environmental analysis 6
wide variety of materials used 2
working in discussion groups 2
PT's willingness to take student input into account
feedback and paper revisions (opportunity to rethink and resynthesize) 2

Change in attitude during the semester
seeing course as fragmentary -> realizing you've learned a lot
took a month to grasp the progression & intersections

Students wanted more...
coherence/ logical progression in course structure 2
stronger sense of direction (vs. liked the progression from tools to personal application of tools)
on connections between classes (liked the assignment requiring this)
open discusion (not so steered) 3
freedom to apply our own frameworks
application & action (as against complexity & ambiguity) 2
on individual issues 2
enforced deadlines 2
information about grading & assignments
time to revise or fewer assignments 2
positive framing of comments
individual student-teacher interaction
teacher involvement in base (discussion/activity) groups
integration of base groups into other class activities

Recommendations to future students...
Need to be prepared to do a lot of thinking outside class
Keep using the angles/skills until you start using them out of class
Do the course if you're intersted in ecological issues
Be prepared to feel you're not getting anywhere, and to take responsibility for your own learning

Each student traces his/her own case study through the semester, applying the different angles of analysis to it

PT's self-evaluation and responses to the comments above
-- to be added soon