Encourage me to do my best

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The "Building self-esteem" discussion has prompted me to ask a question I have had for years. I have been teaching full-time for eight years. I have consistently high teaching evaluations, but the statement I usually score the lowest on is "The instructor encouraged me to do my best work". My courses are reasonably difficult, and I give positive feedback in addition to any negative feedback to projects and papers. I am not sure what else I could be doing. What is it that faculty do to encourage students to do their best work?

CC adjunct:
Students may not realize whether they are doing their best work or not.  You may want to help students evaluate their own work so that they realize that something doesn't have to be perfect to be considered good.  It may be something beyond your control (some students have so many things going on they never feel they get a chance to do their best).  It could be that your class tends to be the one to suffer in terms of student effort.  

How do other faculty at your institution rate on that question?  It may be a systemic problem.  It doesn't seem like the best question to me in some ways, since it doesn't create a frame of reference for best work (do they mean compared to other classes, best work the student could do for your class, something else entirely?).  You may want to find out what is intended, then explain the meaning to your students before you give evaluations out.  That might help you interpret the results better and make it easier for your students to answer.

There are some questions that always seem to generate low scores.  On our evals it's "the prof lets me know how I am doing in the course" (or whatever, I paraphrase).

I've tried a variety of things to keep them informed.  Currently, I write on every exam that I hand back their"grade to date" under their test score. And yet I still get relatively lower scores on that question regularily.

Some questions are just stinkers.

It's a stinker question, along with "Fairness of grading." Everyone, hard or easy graders, always gets lowest scores on that. Not to worry.


I find that sometimes you just ave to come out and say it, and say it often.
"I really want you to learn this"
"I want you to do your best"
"If you have difficulty, give it your best and then come to me and we'll work together on it to make it your best" (I will help students, but I want them to try first and come in ready to discuss what they did and what did/didn't work-- if they don't then I tell them that I can't know how to truly help them unless they do)
"This is hard, I know, but that's how you stretch mentally and perform at your best"


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