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Mid-semester course evals

Anne Dalke's picture

By 5 p.m. on Sun, Oct. 21 (the date of our return), please
post (AS A COMMENT HERE) a mid-semester course evaluation:
* take some time to review all your postings/papers,
reflecting on what's working and what needs working on, both for you
as an individual learner and for the class as a learning community.
* How are you using the class? How do you see others using it, individually and as a group?
* How is this course functioning "ecologically," how might it be more "ecological" in structure and action?
* Are there additional ways you can imagine y/our using the class, to expand our understanding?



ZoeHlmn's picture


During my assessment of our class I realized that having our class sessions in different areas on campus I was more likely to remember our conversations that we had during class if it was in a different spot each time. The images that are associated with our conversations during class help me to remember each class better. I was wondering if this was true for other people as well. Also I felt that I needed to spend more time on my papers because they were very disorganized and that is something I need to work on. Also something I noticed about our class, is that we do not really debate with one another. We usually just state our opinions and everyone sort of excepts them, no one really challenges them. I think that if we were to challenge one another to think on our feet and back ourselves up that would stimulate a more interesting conversation as well. Also if we push one another to our boundaries without hurting people's feelings our boundaries will expand and we will get more out of the class.

wanhong's picture

Agree&Disagree! :)

"The images that are associated with our conversations during class help me to remember each class better. " That's true!  But...I don't think your essay was 'very disorganized'--some part of it was a little hard to just took me a little more time to try to think in your way.

ZoeHlmn's picture


Yeah I think its fun to have certain places associated with different memories for our classes. Oh! and are there any ways that you would recommend on how I could improve my writing? Like how could I have made it more clear? If you remember that far back.

Susan Anderson's picture

Mid-Semester Musings

In my paper I talked about how writing in college is different than writing in high school. We always seemed to have peer edits, but they never seemed to matter.  I would always find myself tailoring my paper to however my English teacher graded.  In college I have learned to take a different approach.  I write about what interests me, not what I think other people want to hear and I think that I still need to learn how to take criticism from my peers.  I am so used to having what other students say not "matter", but now I think it does because I want to make my writing as good as possible, and an important factor in that is listening to what people think about it instead of just brushing it off because it doesn't "matter to my grade.  

I also said that I enjoyed reading Fun Home because it was a nice break from the essays that allowed us to apply our ecological perspectives to a work.

Rochelle W.'s picture

Mid Semester Evaluation Concentrated

I really do enjoy the outdoors, and I appreciate that our class is trying to be more attentive to it, but I am not sure that spending half of our class time outside adds more to the class than it takes away. But if it is alright for me to occasionally get distracted by the grass, and by the patterns the sunlight makes then I am alright with being outside. I also appreciate that we do spend half of our class time inside the classroom...I think they serve the purpose of holding a class well....After many classes I end up wishing we could have spent more time talking about the readings that we did to prepare for class. I feel like I have missed something at the end of classes where we do not get to talk much about, the readings we did....It was nice to start the class with a low pressure paper and work our way up from there. But at times I feel a bit bombarded with papers to write, and I feel like I am always writing something new. I  am not sure if this is necessarily a negative thing, but sometimes I feel a bit flooded.

mbackus's picture

Mid-semester course evaluation

To start off with, this class works. It works on so many levels and for so many different reasons, I don't even know where to begin. So I will start off with Professor Dalke. The amount of planning and thought that went into creating our "sylaship" is amazing. Each class flows seemlessly together, and every word we are assigned to read is  thought provoking. I also think we as a class deserve credit for how well it works. We show up to class every day, we do our assignments, we are engaged, and we have really great discussions. Out of everything we have done so far the areas I think need the most improvement are our interaction with the enviornment and some of the works we read at the beginning of the semester. I enjoy when our class has the opportunity to meet outside, but I think it can be very distracting for the individual, and not necessarily the enviornment most condusive to learning. However the course is titled "Ecological Imaginings" and I think if we never went outside it would be a mistake. So I propose that when we are outside next we try and focus less on how the enviornment is impacting us and more on how we are impacting it. I think it would be an interesting exercise to try and see ourselves from the perspective of the plant and animal life around us. Secondly I must say I found some of the essays we read at the beginning of the semester to be a little bit of struggle. Not that I think it is bad to be challenged, I think it's good that we are, but I especially think the essays pertaining to the rheomode and other ways of changing our grammar to be more "green" were frustrating. They were too theoretical to practically apply, and I still don't see myself incorporating them into my writing. I most enjoyed "Vaster than Empires, and More Slow" by Ursula LeGuin, and I look foraward to reading the selected books and the discussions they might lend themselves to.

Sara Lazarovska's picture

Midterm Evaluation Summary

"As a person who is used to writing papers on a regular basis since high school, what I found that I lacked in my secondary education is concrete feedback; however, you, Dr. Dalke, and my writing partners so far have given me some much appreciated constructive criticism that has, I hope, helped me improve my writing."

"In addition, I like working with writing partners; not only do we get feedback from more than just the professor, but we also get to learn neat “tips and tricks” from each others’ writing that we might not have known or paid attention to before. Furthermore, I like that we have different writing partners each week. That, I think, gives us a different perspective/lens though which we can view our own writing and be critical of it."

"I like that our ecological course actually explores a realm that is not the classroom—the great outdoors. However, sometimes it can be a bit distracting from the class discussion when it is raining or when it is too loud (birds/cicada/etc.). Also, I would like it if we include humans more in our discussions as a part of the ecosystems that we discuss, not as just some outside influence over the natural environment that has little or no connection to the said ecosystems. The discussions do not have to be anthropocentric, but I feel we need to include ourselves as a part of ecology in our analyses and discussions more. Furthermore, I want us to read more than just theories about making writing more “ecological;” we should read specific examples of those theories in practice so it is easier to utilize them in our own writing. "

"I think that all of us participants in the course are fine-tuning our writing and analytical skills, which is a crucial element of the liberal arts education that we are all part of."


These are just some excerpts of the evaluation I wrote, and I think they capture some of the things I mentioned in it quite nicely. I also talked about why I personally chose Ecological Imaginings as my Emily Balch seminar,  what I've learned about my writing from this course, as well as some suggestions to myself about how I can make the course more beneficial for me.

Sarah Cunningham's picture

All About Awareness

For me the best part about the class has been the writing. In both the papers and the postings, I enjoy being forced to sit down and do it. It helps me, and forces me, to let my thoughts develop quite a few stages further than they otherwise would. I find that whatever the prompt, and whatever the structure, I find myself expressing thoughts and feelings that are important to me. The class discussions, as well as the (almost non-existent) on-line discussion, are a bit frustrating. We don't seem to have time to really interact, or to get into any free-wheeling discussions: perhaps there is just too much material. Still, many people have interesting things to say, that I would not have thought of myself. I love the diversity of the class. I feel that meeting outside, and in a different place each time, has added a lot of depth. The readings-- some of them really satisfying and stimulating-- and the general topics we have touched on, leave me a bit confused still about what we mean by ecology. But in another way the whole approach feels holistic, forcing us to integrate in  a non-linear kind of way which seems appropriate to the subject matter. The Serendip site is not completely easy to use: hard to find things, sometimes I have written a comment without realizing that I haven't logged in, then it won't accept it and the whole thing gets lost. A few times I have given up! (It just happened to me again! Fortunately I have figured out I can copy and paste, not start all over again...) All in all I enjoy working my way from confusion to some kind of awareness I didn't have before.

wanhong's picture

Cycle and Future!

Our class and homework creates a cycle that could be described generally by three words--"creative, random and diverse". We gave creative ideas, pick sites randomly and then diversity emerge in our writings. After exchanging ideas with each other, we start a new cycle. The course is more like a creative project. I suggest that we could have more tangible experience in field trips, and share more essays.

Barbara's picture

"tangible experience"

I'd love to hear more about what a more tangible experience is like because we are having another field trip on Thursday (correct?) and this discussion may provide some guidance.

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

My mid-term reflection

I think the class is much more suitable for seniors or who are already good writers rather than first-year international students like me, for the class is too exploratory. The reading was very difficult for me. Most of them are or much related to eco-linguistic of which I had little experience with. Eco-linguistic is also a very small branch in linguistic, so it is hard to search for reference in the school library. While I enjoy the freedom of writing in unusual shapes of sentences, I am still struggling to write grammatical correct sentences rest of the times. I do not feel my writing progresses as fast as other international students who had more guided classes. At first, I liked the grade less policy and thought it would relieve much stress from me and encourage me to write more freely. However, as time move on, I was more and more confused about whether I was working toward the right track – both for writing college academic paper and writing Eco-linguistically. I couldn’t help guessing from the vague comments, which made me even more stressed and reluctant to try things.

wanhong's picture

How to learn more?

I agree that ecolingustics is really a small branch of lingustic and we have limit amount of resource. I even looked up some Chinese website and articles, and it is as small as a short unit in a 10 Chapter (each Chapter approximately have 8 units) book. That is also one of the reason that I feel like we could share more essays with each other and learn more. :)

Elizabeth's picture

Mid-Semester Evaluation/OH the places we can go!

The way that this class has evolved over the semester has really amazed me. We've changed so much of what we do--the actual assignments have changed very little, but the way I interact with the class, how it actually functions, has changed enormously. The places that these changes have come from have been really varied as well--from Anne, from the Senior Seminar, and from our class. The freedom we have to shape the strucutre of the class has been a really positive experience! I think that most of my issues with what have been happening so far have been with myself--I don't think that I've been getting everything that I can out of it. I wish I'd check Serendip more often, and I think that integrating the conversation here into class (and vice versa) in my comments would be really helpful. As for the actual class, I wish that us students could have more say in where the conversation goes in class. Sometimes, I'd really like to talk about something, but we never quite get to it. That being said, we simply don't have enough time to get to everything in class, and I should really use Serendip to continue the conversation, or work on pulling the conversation in the way I'd like it to, which is a skill that I really need to develop!

CMJ's picture

Qualms: an Assessment

Aside from some consistent writing, I don't feel like I am becoming a better writer yet. This course has allowed me to become proficient at crafting a first draft, but I'm afraid that beyond that I am still as helpless as I was at the beginning of the semester. I've explored a lot of new ideas, which is great, but I'd like to be able to write polished essays that express my thoughts. Also, writing the same essay every week (3 pages, due at 5 pm on Friday!) is getting to be monotonous--I don't feel like my writing is developing in a meaningful way. I think this course could do with a little more loosening--try two short essays one week, instead of one?

These online postings also seem to be redundant. We don't converse with each other online after we post, so it is a bit like speaking to an empty room with no listeners. If your Facebook post about your cat got no likes and no comments, would you want to post about your cat again? Probably not. What I am saying is, what is the point of posting if nobody is going to respond? Also, these online postings about our nature places do not need prompts. I am sure all of us, being the smart and creative women that we are, are perfectly able to come up with interesting and inquisitive ideas all on our own. After all, prompts aren't just readily available to pick out of a hat at will in the Real World. We should be learning to be creative ourselves. We have enough time.

In discussions during class, I wish everybody would talk! It would be much more interesting. 


alexb2016's picture


I also feel as if I'd like to hear from more people during our discussions. I feel like it's always the same people contributing to the conversation, and additions tend to be "sugar-coated". I noted that many of the Serendip posts are much more honest, and raw. 

mtran's picture

Mid-term Evaluations

"One of the best things about the course, to me, is Serendip’s online conversation. It is a wonderful way we have been using to share our thoughts.  For me, going back to the old spot every Sunday and writing about my experience is a ‘strange’ task. I often found myself use some free time to visit the longue behind Rhoads, trying to notice something instead of fully “getting lost” in nature. I do not really want to force myself into thinking of something to write about (I would appreciate any help with dealing with this difficulty!). However, the exercise has been rewarding to me. I realize that I am beginning to pay more attention to the environment around me, which in some way shapes me who I am. Also, as I read others’ posts, I learn from them the way people observe and think...

However, I think our online conversation has not been what it is supposed to be. I realize that I myself as well as some of other students am still not using the advantages that the forum provides. One of the reasons might be that the online forum is a little hard to track as everyone’s post tends to be mingled. One can easily miss out some post. We can actually engage in the conversation more by commenting and interacting more with each other, on a regular basis."

alexb2016's picture

Midterm Reflection

If I had any expectations regarding the course prior to arriving, they had dissipated by the time I was leaving our first class meeting. Everything about the course is new to me, and at first, I struggled with the “grade-less” paper policy introduced with the class syllabus. I consider, and take pride in, my organization and time management, and originally found the lack of traditional class structure surprisingly abrasive. I was “lost” in a sense, and in some ways I’m still working on reorienting myself. Luckily, I was privy to a piece of advice from Emily Solnit, who helped me realize how to “leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark” and why, “that’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.” Instead of looking at the seminar as having a lack of structure, I readjusted my perspective to see the freedom I had in experimenting with literary style, and I began to see my experience in a whole new light. I feel as if my peers shared my initital reaction regarding the grading policy, as well as the first undirected writing assignments.

Barbara's picture

My suggestions towards our discussion on mid-term reflection

Let's think about why we initially chose to join the class and how it turns out be same as/different from our imagination; share our reading experience and the reading methods we've tried; think about the way to make our online community more interactive.
Quotes from my mid-term reflection:
"Unlike the way I am familiar with where a full text is usually used, readings for this course are a select of relevant articles by different writers...[I] spend time adjust to the language of a writer: how they structure their ideas ... whether they write direct or inexplicit, etc."
"Online forum ... is not as interactive as in-class discussion. This is due to the fact that online discussion is not instant and it is hard to track the context where the thoughts generated and thus hard to respond. Still I am happy to post online because people actually read there. Enhancing the responsiveness of Serendip is something that I think need us to work on."