27 november 2018

Conflicting feedback

As I am leaving the Spanish sun behind me, traveling back to the Netherlands, after a well-deserved holiday, I carefully open my inbox. I am prepared for a mountain of e-mails of students and happy to delete the majority of e-mails, as my colleagues have dealt with these students’ issues. There is one e-mail that stands out:

“Evaluation results of your course are ready for feedback”

Yes! I love evaluations, as they point out the things that went well and the things that might need improvement. Even though we are already 3 weeks into the next course, with a new structure, different lecturers, new content, it does not mean we just let it all go and forget about what happened in the first eight weeks of the program. We evaluate as well, think about what we may be should change or not, and the reinforcement of students is great for planning next years’ course. Yes! I love evaluations!

This year, we have started with an English curriculum. Besides speaking another language and translating everything to English, it also meant having added an extra dimension to the study: the internationals! So we were curious how the students have experienced this.

Interestingly enough, we received very conflicting feedback on the question ‘How did you experience being in an international classroom?’. On the one hand people thought it was “great to be around international people. Speaking English is very useful, generally in life, and I really improved my speaking and writing skills”. On the other hand, some were a bit more critical, saying “Over 90% of the students are Dutch, it does not feel like studying in an international setting at all”.  Both statements absolutely make sense, this year we ‘only’ have forty international students in our student population of 240 (a quick calculation reveals this is more than 16%). They are from all over the world and at the beginning of the year, they were distributed amongst the twelve tutorgroups. The majority of the tutorgroup remains ‘Dutch’. I describe them as ‘Dutch’, because they are not all the same stereotype Dutchies! I see and recognize the diversity within this group (and have written about this before).

'Dutch colleagues, only wanting to speak in Dutch'

Another thing that really stood out to me is that students either think their English is improving and they “enjoy speaking in English, which is a good thing”. On the other there were quite some students who complained about their Dutch colleagues only wanting to speak in Dutch…

What I like mostly about a course evaluation like this, is that we can already start using the suggestions in the feedback right now. Alas, I cannot increase the amount of international students that we have this year, but I can try to encourage the Dutchies to speak in English even more…!

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