Teaching evaluation

What students say about me.

teaching excellence awards

My teaching assistants and I received 7 teaching excellence awards, including our university's highest honor.

  • Hokkaido University President's Award for Teaching Excellence (2013-03-15). This is a once-in-a-lifetime award. The certificate and cash envelope are shown above and at left.
  • 2012 (2 awards)
  • 2011 (1 award)
  • 2007 (2 awards)
  • 2005 (1 award)

despicable beginnings

Sometime around 2004, Hokudai buckled under pressure from the Ministry of Education, and agreed to evaluate its teaching outcomes. The teaching excellence awards were part of a package of reluctant responses designed to appease the government.

I didn't know I had won my first award until several years after I had taught the course. Noriko found my name when searching online for an unrelated administrative document. No plaque, no check, no word of praise. Hokudai doesn't regard awards as significant. They offered a bizarre explanation that they hadn't notified winners to avoid offending professors who hadn't won.

Although I had won, I was skeptical because the survey questions the students were being asked to respond to were by no means reliable measures of teaching or academic achievements. There were only a handful of questions, all were vague, and most were biased. One went "How wonderful was the course?" Fishing for compliments!

I was disgusted at Hokudai's phony, unprofessional effort. For some time, I refused to participate in Hokudai's surveys. Instead I ran my own. (My students' write-in comments -- typed by my sister Keiko -- are posted elsewhere on this web site. The numeric responses are not online.) I learned much more from my private surveys than I did from Hokudai's, partly because Hokudai didn't tell instructors results for a whole year.

Then, gradually, the situation improved.

my surveys

I ask students to anonymously comment on my teaching and their learning. Here are all the responses I received for the following years and semesters:

Comments for 2007 fall are not shown here, because the comment sheets were scanned (instead of being typed) and the handwriting might identify the writer. Although I would prefer to have the comments typed and displayed, this is unlikely due to lack of resources.

Comments for English Online are not shown here, because I have been unable to thematically categorize comments. Again, this is unlikely to materialize due to lack of resources.

university president's award for teaching excellence

On 2013-03-15, I received the Hokkaido University president's award for teaching excellence (教育総長賞). Although I am the only person named on the certificate, the honor is shared by Noriko and our fantastic teaching assistants. Everyone who guided our students over the years jointly earned this award.

The president's award for teaching excellence was established in academic year 2011 along with its sister award, the president's award for research excellence (研究総長賞). The president's award for teaching excellence is Hokudai’s highest honor in teaching, and is given annually to Hokudai instructors who, among various other qualifications, have received at least 2 first-place teaching excellence awards. For academic year 2011, 7 instructors received the president's award for teaching excellence, of whom 3 teach languages (1 each from Chinese, French, and Japanese), showing that language teaching is strong at Hokudai. I do not know yet who all the recipients are for academic year 2012. I do know that 2 colleagues (sociology and English language) whom I respect won this award.

My sole disappointment is that receiving the president's award for teaching excellence permanently disqualifies us from receiving further teaching excellence awards. This limitation creates vacancies in award positions so that others may follow. While I agree with the spirit, I will miss the pride of having our future TAs mention in their resumes that we taught award-winning classes.

Thank you, students, for the opportunity to assist you. Thank you, colleagues, for recognizing my teaching team.
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the true reward

Students are professional learners. They respond to sincerity and integrity. They may not complain -- most Japanese students consider stoicism a virtue -- but they see through half-hearted attempts at teaching.

Teaching awards are gratifying and motivating, but they do not necessarily mean I produced better students.

The true test comes many years from now, when students reflect upon what they learned at Hokudai. If they remember me as a positive influence, that will be my reward.

Except I may never know I received it.