347 Schaeffer Hall
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Dept of Political Science
341 Schaeffer Hall
20 E. Washington Street
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa 52242
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Below are the written comments I've received for POLI:3117 (30:120). Each semester's comments are grouped together, with more recent comments at the top. I will reproduce the comments as accurately as possible. This will include spelling and grammar errors (but I won't mark them with [sic]). Any response or comment I have will be in italics following the student's comment.
Although I talk about it in my responses, the basic structure of this course involves a weekly quiz over one chapter in the main textbook. After the quiz the class participates in either a group discussion or activity relating to that week's material. There are two paper assignments. The first is a shorter paper based on an interview with a public administrator of the student's choosing. The second, longer paper is an analysis of a memoir written by someone with extensive government experience relative to the concepts presented in the main text.
Semesters: F 2010, F 2009
[It appears that this website doesn't recognize the internal page links when I copied this material over from my old website. Until I figure out an alternative you'll have to just scroll down if you are interested in the comments from older semesters.]
I enjoyed the course quite a bit; very good class. The one difficulty I had was with the participation and found it difficult to break into the discussion. Sometimes you would mention topics that would have made for substantive discussion. It might help to ask more questions, etc. Thank you, great class and your [DOJ]experience was of a lot of value.
I'm glad this student enjoyed the course. There were only 11 in the course (13 officially, but two skipped the entire semester) so generating discussion was sometimes a bit difficult. I may have a bit of a tendency to want to avoid "dead air." That means I might move on to the next topic a bit quickly if there doesn't seem to be much reaction from the class.
I thought the examples from DOJ were helpful. They provided examples to connect concepts with which helped with remembering them.
Several students from the prior semester said that I used too many DOJ examples. For this semester I toned it down. It seems this student thought I hit a good balance.
Didn't think DOJ stories were an issue. Looking forward to Pub. Admin. school now. Very insightful class overall, felt like I came away smarter.
Great! In addition to toning down the DOJ examples I also mentioned several times that the previous class had complained about them, so a couple of this year's students let me know that it wasn't so bad this time.
Quizzes good motivator to read the material every week--I would recommend you continue w/ the quizzes.
1st paper I enjoyed interviewing and writing about a P.A. [public administrator]--overall good assignment, focus on stylistic elements was effective.
Unlike my judicial courses, in this one I focus more on broad concepts and less on details. Thus, I give weekly quizzes rather than tests. As this student suggests, doing so helps to make sure that students have read the material and can effectively participate in the weekly discussions and activities.
The first paper assignment is to interview a working public administrator and to ask the person about the issues we've discussed in class. The point is to give the students a chance to talk to someone (other than me) about the practical aspects of the course topics. One of the students from F09 complained about my focusing on and talking about style for the papers. This semester I talked more about why style is important for public administrators and in general.
Professor Hagle was extremely well organized--sometimes almost to a fault. Classes tended to be more lecture-heavy towards the end of the semester, which made the material less interesting. There were just enough DOJ stories, don't worry. I'm afraid to write too much on this evaluation for fear that Prof Hagle will criticize my grammer when he posts it online.
HA! I do show the students the comments from prior semesters, so I'm glad that some students are looking at them. (I reply to the comments, but I don't worry about the writing in them!) I also noticed that there was less discussion and more lecturing (more just me going through the main points of a chapter rather than a lecture as such). There seemed to be less of a willingness to discuss the topics. I'm not sure if that was due to the material, that the students had paper assignments they were also working on, or just the general end-of-semester blahs. It also didn't help that this was a very small class. Regardless, I'll need to try to push a little more to get folks to enter into the discussions.
The class was a glorified show-and-tell where Prof. Hagle recounted his days of working in the DOJ. The book(s) had valuable lessons and material I found interesting to read, yet the professor disregarded the material and utilized it only for quizzes and then never mentioned them again. Even upon prompting the professor overlooked the material presented in the book(s) to talk about his own experience. Teacher was overly self-involved, rude, singled out students in class, and provided little guidance for quizzes and how to better prepare for the next one. Additionally this professor used to be one I would highly recommend but I would no longer due to the extreme lack of preparedness for this course. In general this course had material to fill maybe 4 weeks but not a semester.
Ouch. Before responding on the substance of the comments I should note that although the evaluations are done anonymously, I have a pretty good idea of who this student was. Because this was a once a week class the timing was such that I handed back the results for the first paper assignment right before they did the evaluations and this particular student was very upset about his or her paper score and my comments about it. I won't say more about it, but it doesn't surprise me that so much anger came through in the comments.
As to the substance, a couple of other students also complained about my using many examples from my experiences work at the Department of Justice. (See below.) One reason I took leave from the UI to work at DOJ was to get some "real world" experience. I had not taught our public administration course for many years, so doing so again after my DOJ experience seemed to be good timing. It's not surprising, then, that I would draw on those experiences to illustrate the material presented in the main textbook, and that's exactly what I did. The course was structured to begin each week with the quiz and then move to either a class discussion or a group activity. The discussion or activity was related to the material for that week and was always followed by a summary by me of the main points in that week's chapter, contrary to the student's assertion otherwise.
The weekly quizzes were structured so that students could provide relatively short answers to three of five questions. Because the material was not as detail-oriented as in my prelaw courses, the questions tended to hit on broad concepts. There were 10 such quizzes and students were allowed to miss or drop the scores for two of them. Each quiz covered one chapter in the main text. As each chapter contained several review and study questions, along with a list of important terms, I mentioned several times in class that they would be a good study guide for the quizzes. Thus, the student is simply wrong in the complaint along these lines as well.
In terms of the material, the main text covered 12 chapters of various topics in about 600 pages. In addition to the main text, I posted a fair amount of material for use during the discussions and activities. Plus, the final paper was an analysis of a person's memoir of working in a government agency compared to the material in the main text and I spent time in class about several possible approaches to the paper and material. Thus, again, the student is incorrect in the assertions about my ignoring the main text.
I think some of the other criticisms relate more to the student's reaction to the paper score and comments than to anything that actually occurred in class. On the whole, this student might have some legitimate concerns, but their value is pretty much lost due to the over the top way he or she chose to present them.
I felt like there was sometimes a disconnect between the material being presented and the actual class discussions. While we heard a lot about DOJ, public administration is broad and I would have appreciated the opportunity to connect and solidify text materials with real-life applications.
I still question whether I really completely grasp the concepts that we were supposed to learn over the course of the semester. If students are going to be responsible to guide their own learning, there should be more structured re-inforcement within the classroom to verify that all students are in-tune with the material.
As I noted in my response to the prior comment, following the weekly quiz we would engage in a class discussion or group activity. The discussion or activity would often be on a particular point or concept made in that week's chapter. For example, for the chapter on decision making the class engaged in a decision making activity. The activity itself did not involve public administration directly, but was used to then discuss the process that the individuals and small groups used to reach their decisions. I would then guide the post-activity discussion along the lines of the concepts presented in the chapter.
As for the DOJ examples, the DOJ is a real-life application. I suspect, however, that many students don't really see the DOJ as public administration. I must admit that I didn't think about it in those terms before I starting working there, but the offices I worked in were not much different from any other federal government agency that administers a program. Even so, although I used a fair number of examples from DOJ, I did use others and students were regularly asked to contribute examples from their own experiences. Plus, the assignment for the first paper assignment was to interview a public administrator and write up the interview in terms of the material from the main text.
Although I would quibble with the way this student characterized aspects of the course, it seems that I need to do a better job of making the connection between the concepts in the book with the discussions and activities. Ditto for my DOJ experiences.
I would retain the quizzes as a major factor in grading. They compel students to study the material and reward those who work to prepare for class.
Perhaps discussion should be more guided by having 1-2 lead off.
This person gets what I wanted to achieve with the weekly quizzes. Unlike the material in my prelaw courses, the public administration topics are not as detail-oriented. On the whole, getting the general concepts is more important and I didn't want students to have the pressure of one or two tests in this course. In addition, because I wanted to have weekly discussions and activities, I needed to make sure that the students had actually read the material before class. The weekly quizzes was the way to do that.
For the most part I thought the discussions went pretty well, but there were a few times when it took a while to get started. Having a couple of folks responsible for leading or starting the discussion on a particular topic may be a way to get things going sooner. If I incorporated something along those lines I could probably make it a part of the participation portion of the grade.
Thanks, excellent course. If only the Democrats in the White House would have took it. Synergy.
HA! The last word is to tease me about how I tell students to avoid fad words and I use "synergy" as a prime example.
I feel that most oft he class was spent talking about Prof. Hagle's personal experiences rather than class material. His experience w/ the DOJ/OVC should have only minimally encorporated. After taking previous courses w/ this prof. I was quite disappointed w/ his effort in the class and condescending attitude towards his students (e.g., speaking on grammar/style for 45 mins).
Again, no love for DOJ! Maybe what I should do is just tell them that it was some other agency, or maybe tell them it was someone else's experience. Geez. I'm not sure why this student thinks personal experiences directly related to the course material should only be minimally be used, but you would think (or at least I do) that having a professor with actual experience with the subject matter would be a plus. That said, I'll certainly be more attuned to this issue the next time I teach the course.
As to the effort comment, it's certainly true that my role in this course was quite different than in the other course this student took with me. My other courses are mainly lecture-based, or focused on a small number of students for discussion, which means I am largely the focus of attention. In this course my role probably seemed less direct or active given that I just reviewed my notes while the students were taking their quizzes, spent time observing the students during group activities, and tried to allow the group discussions to play out among the students with minimal contributions from me. What some students in this class may not have understood was the effort that went into preparing and grading the weekly quizzes, the grading and commenting on the two sets of papers, the extensive notes I had for each chapter, the notes and discussion points I had for each of the group activities, etc. Sometimes guiding a discussion so that it stays on topic and covers the intended points takes more effort and preparation than a simple lecture.
The comment about the time spent on grammar and style made me smile (but not in a condescending way!) for two reasons. First, if this student has been in a couple of my other courses, then he or she saw almost exactly the same presentation, so it shouldn't have been a surprise. In all my courses I talk about the importance of a good writing style and I go to the effort to tell students what they should and shouldn't do in their papers. This makes sure that they understand the grading criteria and so that there won't be any surprises in terms of the requirements. Second, 45 minutes out of a semester doesn't seem all that much to spend on something (the two paper assignments) that will affect 50% of the course grade. Plus, does this student think that he or she is such a good writer that a discussion of grammar and style wouldn't be of some help? Even if he or she is a good writer, the style appropriate in one area might be quite different from that in another (even in law versus public administration, for example). In any case, it certainly shouldn't be considered condescending for me to spend time helping students to improve their writing skills.
I would like to see a quiz every 2 weeks instead of weekly. The information retention was low.
I can't speak to whether this particular student's retention of the material was low, but one intent of the quizzes was to present the material, use discussions or activities to highlight and explain it, and then use it again for the analysis required for the second paper assignment. I'm not sure that the retention is much better for those who study "for the test."
As I discussed with the students at the end of the semester, the quizzes were also intended to represent what occurs in the real world. In many jobs, workers have weekly duties that much be completed regardless of other work that comes up. This might include a weekly report for the boss, or preparation for a meeting, etc. The weekly quiz was intended to represent such weekly duties.
I enjoyed this course, thank you!
I was very surprised @ the start of this course after taking two of your others, but I did enjoy the teaching style you used in this course. I love your classes, and I enjoy your reputation as a very hard professor. :)
Yes, as I've noted in my responses above, my style in this course was quite different than in my prelaw courses. In those courses I am trying to get the students ready for law school, so there's a bit more "tough love" involved. Here I wanted to take a bit more relaxed approach. Even so, keeping up with the material for the weekly quizzes, doing the interview and short paper, as well as the longer analysis paper should have made the course challenging. I'm glad this student appreciated the approach.
Any student considering a future in Public Admin. of any kind needs to take this course. Prof. Hagle is extremely knowledgable on the subject matter because of his background. An excellent class overall. Thank you for teaching.
Finally, a little bit of love (more or less) for my DOJ war stories! Seriously, from the prior comments I get that some students didn't make the connection between the material and why I was sharing my experiences with them. This student seems to understand that it's one thing to talk about some public administration concept in the abstract, but often quite another to consider it in an actual agency setting (e.g., budgeting). I'm glad this student made the connection.