Graduate Proseminars - G6000s - Evaluations

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I have formally taught three proseminars in the Psychology Department to first and second year PhD students. The first course in Spring 2014 was taught solely by myself and focused upon building skills required for graduate school such as appreciating scientific ethics and methods, developing intuition and understanding for statistics and issues regarding reproducibility and replicability, and discussing and evaluating the peer review and publishing process. The courses in Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 were co-taught (though I was the primary instructor) and focused upon the writing of an NSF grant and the preparation of research presentations. I also taught scientific methods and some basic R programming related to data visualization in these classes. The course evaluation forms changed in 2015 to ask slightly differently worded questions but I have classified comments into standard categories. All comments related to myself are unedited. The courses were taught to 8-14 students per year.

Comments on Instructor effectiveness

- James Curley is amazing. He is very inspiring, outspoken, direct, approachable. We had very stimulating, great discussions raising the really important points that every researcher should think about. All questions were relevant, thus we really got to the essence of things. His easygoing personality helped of not having taboo topics. This is how it should be. (Spring 2014)

- Really engaging discussion leader. James was helpful to keep the momentum of the class going, provide pertinent anecdotes, and provide information when it was needed to keep topics on track. (Spring 2014)

- James taught a great prosem course! The material covered was very useful and the class was very interactive and engaging. (Spring 2014)

- over all a good job. I thought that the curriculum (e.g. talking about being manipulative with stats, data presentation, grant funding) was much more valuable than another semester of guest lectures. (Spring 2014)

- James was a great professor, raised interesting and through provoking points. And his sense of humor definitely made the class more fun (Spring 2014)

- I also really enjoyed Dr. Curley's instruction in this course. Given the informal nature of the class, he was very effective in structuring the course to suit the needs/ interest in the students for each class meeting. I found his instruction to be very helpful for both the grant writing process, first year talks, as well overall guidance with regards to how to succeed in graduate school. (Fall 2014)

- James is super easy to talk to, fun, and extremely knowledgeable. His advice really helped make the NSF and first-year talk processes less stressful and helped to boost my confidence in communicating science. He also got me interested in R. (Fall 2014)

- James was a delightful instructor! All class periods covered topics that were directly relevant to our careers. As a result, this prosem was more practically relevant than previous prosems. (Fall 2014)

- by far the most useful of the three proseminars I have taken. The professor always had a great attitude, which made students want to contribute to conversation. Whether we went off onto tangents, I also left class feeling as though I learned something new. (Fall 2014)

- James is a very good instructor. He is very relatable and a great role model as a scientist. (Fall 2015)

- James was an excellent professor. I felt like he really cared about making us better communicators. He was very responsive and I appreciated that he tailored his classes to what we wanted to learn about. (Fall 2015)

- good (Fall 2015)

- The instructor gave us good feedback on how to visualize tables and charts using R. He also gave us feedback on our grant drafts and first year talks. (Fall 2015)

- I really appreciated getting to know Dr. Curley through this class. He really cares about the graduate students, and was very helpful in providing advice for our first year talks and general first year expectations. I very much appreciated the data visualization discussiosn he led. (Fall 2015)

- James was terrific. He was always well-prepared and very present for the entire class. He clearly cares deeply about his students and their success and he was very supportive throughout the course (even about topics that were not directly related to the class). As a class, we had a lot of questions about R and James led a class one day to go over basics in R. It was really helpful! I still refer to the notes from that class whenever I use R. (Fall 2015)

What were the best aspects of the course? What did you learn - in terms of knowledge, skills, or perspectives - in this course?

- The content was great. These were topics that we really needed to hear about and be aware of before continuing in academia... And discussing them with a critical angle was very thought-provoking. (Spring 2014)

- The frank discussions in a low-pressure environment enabled relaxed, thoughtful learning. This course vastly improved my general knowledge about science, publications, and academia. Which I needed. (Spring 2014)

- Relaxed, safe atmosphere. A mix of people coming from different angles. (Spring 2014)

- Our free discussions and exchange of information and opinions. No taboo topics. This is how science and research should be: an open discussion and exchange of ideas. (Spring 2014)

- having a proseminar that encouraged critical thinking about scientific practices was a welcome relief. The class was laid back in a way where everyone was comfortable contributing to conversation. The topics discussed were very practical (e.g. research methods, ethics) and allowed the class to discuss topics that we probably would have otherwise had to learn about on our own in grad school (Spring 2014)

- Great course. Touching on all the topics, that no other class touches upon, but all very important topics every scientist should learn about and be aware of. (Spring 2014)

- I am very happy with the new Prosem format and definitely recommend it for future pro seminars. I hope the next pro seminars are similar to this! (Spring 2014)

- James was great and provided excellent feedback. I feel both my NSF grant and first year talk really benefited from taking the class. (Fall 2014)

- My NSF would not have been nearly as good if I hadn't had help from this course!!! To me, that was the most valuable part of the course. (Fall 2014)

- James's tips and comments; opportunities to rehearse first-year talks and receive feedback on NSF Drafts (Fall 2014)

- Feedback on NSF (Fall 2014)

- Preparation for first year talks, although the scheduling of who was going to practice on which day could have been clearer and more organized. (Fall 2014)

- James is generally superb! (Fall 2014)

- The excellent feedback from the professor on our assignments. (Fall 2014)

- I think this is definitely a good addition to the first year curriculum! I found the course helpful and practical -- definitely a very useful way to spend 2 hours a week. (Fall 2014)

- Practiced writing, talks, and effective data presentation writing grant presenting research plan eloquently (Fall 2015)

- We learned how to visualize data and practice effective presentation skills. We also prepared a grant in the course. (Fall 2015)

- I learned better grant writing and presentation skills, as well as some knowledge of data visualization.I reviewed some important presentation skills, learned about how to write a (hopefully) successful NSF GRFP, and learned some data visualization in R. (Fall 2015)

- I really appreciated the suggestions regarding powerpoint presentation and general presentation skills. I also really enjoyed the R tutorial lecture and found it to be very helpful. (Fall 2015)

- I learned a lot about presenting. I especially appreciated the individual feedback on our presentations and the tutorial that James did about graphics in R. (Fall 2015)

- As someone new to the University, I found this a helpful forum to navigate the key first year milestones and get to know my cohort better. I hope you continue to emphasize the data visualization - even perhaps a few more ggplot tutorials from Dr. Curley. (For example, spend a few minutes each class taking a graph from someone's first year talk and reviewing different ways to present the information. I know this isn't a key purpose of the class, but it's a really valuable skill and this was a useful forum to review it.) (Fall 2015)

- Good (Fall 2015)

- Overall, I really enjoyed this class. The first semester of graduate school can be a little overwhelming and it was nice to know that once a week you could check in with peers and James often played the role of advisor. (Fall 2015)

- It was a good way to get to know the rest of my cohort. It was very helpful for writing a strong grant application. (Fall 2015)

- Important skills. Good structure for first year grads to get to know one another, and each others research. (Fall 2015)

Ways to Improve the Course

- This was the best--and only--proseminar I've taken. I sometimes found it difficult to get a turn to speak, but otherwise the course was a great experience. (Spring 2014)

- I definitely learned a lot. It made me aware to a lot of issues. I also feel like I can evaluate topics better now. Some topics like p-hacking are a bit more complicated and I will only fully understand them after some more stats training. But that is the nature of things, it does not take a way from the effectiveness of the course (Spring 2014).

- maybe more technical discussion in issues concerning basic statistics and questionable research practices. Maybe a bit more structure. I also think participation should be limited to graduate students as some of the guest members tended to dominate the conversation... More efforts towards giving everyone the opportunity to speak would help. (Spring 2014)

- I learned a lot in this seminar. I feel like I'm more academically savvy now. We had very candid conversations that no one else besides someone who has been through a PhD program would be able to tell you (Spring 2014).

- The guest speakers were great because they were passionate about the topics they presented (Spring 2014)

- I think this course would be more suitable as an elective rather a requirement, or be offered as variable-points class. Perhaps the course could be repeated as a workshop or practicum (the way the Teaching Practicum in the department gives the option of a "refresher" course for course alumni) in order to more fully meet the needs of students working on the NSF. (Fall 2014)

- I wonder if the course might really benefit second year grad students too, as many of them were preparing another round of NSFs. It could be good to have the second years share their applications from the previous year along with their reviewer feedback (if they are comfortable doing so). Such a practice would enable the second years to improve their applications and help the first years learn from their experience. (Fall 2014)

- As not all needed to prepare an NSF application (two were already on it, and one student is an international student who is not eligible to submit for NSF), it would make sense to make this class an elective, or in the very least, to implement a variable points system (i.e., students would have the option of taking the course for 1 point or 3 points, depending on their NSF status). By having a variable points system, students with an NSF could take the course for, say, 1 point and be excused from attending many of the class sessions devoted to that application and then resume regular attendance when it is time to prep for first year talks. This 1-point version (or a 2 point version) would also enable second year students who are also preparing NSF applications to benefit from this course but then be exempted from the sessions dedicated to preparing first year talks. (Fall 2014)

- It might be helpful to go over the basic requirements of the NSF and other fellowships at the beginning of the course and discuss in class proposals that have been funded in the past, rather than just providing them for us to read. It would have been useful to discuss as a class strengths and weaknesses. My biggest recommendation is to focus on the organization and presentation of the NSF assignment. Perhaps lay out clearer expectations, such as, "Successful applicants report spending 80-100 hours on the application." I don't now if that's true, but providing some expectation of time and effort up front would help clarify expectations and requirements sooner. Also, spending some time in class pointing out priority sections of the NSF website to read would be great. The draft deadlines were very helpful in getting us moving quickly, and I think a bit more direction and clarity up front could have helped get us to quality products a bit earlier in the process. A random thought: Perhaps devote a class to creating and presenting quality posters? This is another medium through which we will communicate science and so I think it merits attention in this class. (Fall 2014)

- I think it was overall a good course. It served its purpose in helping us write the NSF and do our first year talks, and I definitely took a lot away from it. The timing of having to have our first year talks done for practice in class was a little bit stressful, because it was right after the NSF and so far away from when we actually gave the talk, but there isn't really any way to fix that -- it is just the way things worked out timing-wise (Fall 2014)

- One way this course could be improved would be to delineate the schedule ahead of time (and stay on that schedule) so that students felt more well prepared and knew what to expect for each class meeting. Since this is a very new course, I also think it would have been helpful to have a syllabus with the learning goals, and objectives, and expectations of the course clearly laid out from the beginning of the course. (Fall 2014)

- Almost all of our focus was on either preparing for the NSF grant for the first year talk, but communicating science is much more than grant writing and 15-minute talks, so perhaps more focus on other types of writing, speaking, outreach, etc either at the beginning or end of course. (Fall 2014)

- This class is very useful! However, it would likely better serve the needs of the grad students by being offered as an elective, rather than a requirement, and/or being offered for different point values (i.e., 1 point version and 3 point version). (Fall 2014)

- I think it's a valuable course for beginning graduate students, given the timing of the NSF grant and first year talks, but it would benefit from more structured in-class time. In particular, I would recommend at least one or two classes on preparing for and giving effective talks before we give our first practice talk. Perhaps some small oral presentation activities or exercises too, so we got experience beyond just the 15-minute talk format. I would also suggest having more peer review for the NSF writing process, to ease the burden on the instructors and as a way to get to know each others' background and interests more. (Fall 2014)

- Perhaps a bit more structure would be valuable. Aside from the grants and talks we didn't have much to discuss, and the feedback was valuable. But it may be nice to add in some sessions about learning how to effectively communicate science. (Fall 2015)

- No major suggestions to improve it in the future. (Fall 2015)

- The one thing that could be improved is the preparation of the NSF application. I thought that we could have spent more time reading each other's applications and workshop the applications. (Fall 2015)

- Great course, could have used more organization regarding what each class would be devoted to. (Fall 2015)

Comments on readings, materials, assignments and examinations

- Readings were good and thought provoking. Final assignment could have been made more clear a little earlier on... (Spring 2014)

- The class content was very useful for beginning graduate students. We covered several critical norms in academia that will make life easier for us! (Spring 2014)

- The reading and material covered a variety of topics that were relevant to grad school and conducting research. (Spring 2014)

- The only thing that would have been better would be to have all of the readings posted online a week or two in Advance. (Spring 2014)

- Hard to comment on this, since I already have an NSF and therefore did not prepare that application as part of this class. (Fall 2014)

- One constructive comment here would be to clarify the requirements and necessary effort for the NSF on day 1. I feel like it took me a few weeks to really understand the task and what I needed to do to write solid statements. (Fall 2014)

- The NSF and first year talk are both incredibly useful and important to focus on during the first semester of graduate school. For that reason, the assignments in this course are very effective. I think this course could be improved even more by providing extra resources/ readings on grant writing. I also think it would have been beneficial to have seen more examples of first year talks from previous years to give us an idea of the scope we should aim for. (Fall 2014)

- There weren't really any assignments just for the course, which I think was a really good thing. The course was very practical in helping us prepare our NSF grants and perfect our first year talks. There wasn't any extra/busy work, which is how I think a graduate course should be run. (Fall 2014)

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