www.myprofessorsucks.com for both Prof. McFarland and other profs.
Comments on this private website vary from ravingly positive to dismally negative for the same professor !
However, most of these evaluations (often using refreshingly youthful phrases) are 2 or more years old: since about 2006,
many students now express these criticisms on other websites.
An alternate evaluation website is Rate my Professor; this site is harder to use (you must register) with fewer briefer comments, but similar.
The following table lists only NEGATIVE criticisms:
positive comments are omitted. The comments are actual quotes, word for word,
but each issue is represented by only one comment. About 90% of my students'
complaints resemble one of the 15 examples below. You (my student) might see
these past criticisms as a guide to your own comments when the semester is
near an end.
Student criticism (quoted)
Prof McFarland's response
(Most common criticism in 2005)
It is true: Prof McFarland is often a quiet
speaker, but he tries to compensate by writing
everything on the board, and leaving it there until the last
student has copied what he/she wishes. Since a large number of
students choose to sit in the rear of our very large room
(Heide Hall 100), loudness must be a problem for only a few.
"Slow down - give students more
time to absorb the information".
(2nd most common criticism)
"Takes too long to go over problems"
"Class is structured to accommodate the slowest student"
There are about equal numbers of these two criticisms:
"speed up" and "slow down".
Since the Business School requires the math department to cover
a certain minimum number of topics, "slowing down" on one topic
would require either speeding up on another topic, or lengthening
the semester. Students will differ on how to split up the available
time among the required topics: it is hard to
"Make web quizzes worth more"
"Replace web quizzes with
written take-home tests"
The first criticism reflects the work needed to complete the web quiz,
and the second (opposite) criticism came from only one student who
explained that anything involving computers was difficult.
Since cooperation is encouraged on web quizzes, it is not clear who should get any additional web quiz value. Their main value is as a "wake up call" to polish skills before the more valuable paper test covering the same material.The value of web quizzes was increased starting Spring 2002.
"Spend more time on probability
and less on the easy stuff"
Spending more time on probability should be matched by more test
questions on probability, but since these are harder questions, grades would
suffer; is this really what students want?
"Office hours were horrendous;
do you think late night hours
are good for everyone?"
Since this comment was written, additional daylight hours
have been added, and this website has allowed many students to get
practice and help at times of their choosing.
"When someone asks a question,
he makes you feel stupid"
This is an important (fortunately rare) criticism, and I (Prof McFarland)
take it very seriously! I constantly struggle to find ways to
allow my students to feel good about their attempts to learn math,
but I will sometimes fail. When I fail, I feel the hurt as much
as do my students. Therefore, I also have incentive to improve.
"He spoke very sophisticated
which was his downfall.
He has a very hard time
getting his message through
to normal human beings."
Complex ideas will always be hard to present to untrained people:
even Bill Gates has big problems at this task! We must try our best,
however, since we depend upon these sophisticated ideas
to get the world's work done. If an idea is simple, however,
I must present it SIMPLY, or I have failed.
"Give more frequent examinations.
For example, give a weekly quiz"
Prof McFarland is required to set test dates at the
start of the semester, but the option of "more tests" has been voted
down by big margins when students vote at this time:
after all, tests are work! At the end of the semester, some students
will not have attained original goals, and then wish
they could take more tests on which better scores might balance
earlier errors. Starting in summer 2000, Prof. McFarland will be creating
a number of interactive exercizes and self-grading
quizzes for both Math 143, Math 250,
and Math 141 which a student
can use to sharpen and test skills before an exam which affects the course grade.
"Get some new clothing"
"pink is not your color"
"What hapenned to your Patrick Ewing #33 orange sneakers?"
"Buy a pair of black shoes to go with your work attire"
About 10% of my negative comments read like this: I wear the same
clothes too often. I use these clothes only while lecturing, and
like Clark Kent, hop into them just before class, and back out of
them soon after. They are cared for with tenderness and respect, and
most were bought in the last 2 years, but I will often wear a
reddish-pink button-down shirt during cold weather:
it is the shirt I wore on the first day I taught here, and I hope to
wear it on the last day! I also often wear a navy blue knit
vest: it was a gift from a friend who has since died,
and I wear it out of respect. The orange sneakers are still
around, but Prof. McFarland ruined his arches wearing sandals
and hush puppies for 20 years. The current Brooks shoes (bought in
Spring 2006) have stiff high arches, without which Prof would limp, alas.
"Go over homework in class"
"Could talk more about
the take-home problems"
I have assumed that both writers were referring to the list of
take-home problems (for either Math 143
or Math 250) from which Prof McFarland
promises to pick test questions. The entire semester will be spent
talking "about" these problems, by talking about the ideas and
methods used to solve them. However, Prof McFarland will seldom
merely present in class solutions to take-home test problems,
which could then be copied and memorized. Memorization is not
a major tool of any Science professor in America; our style
has been to encourage individual innovation and creative problem
solving. This policy has been enormously successful at keeping America
at the very front line of technological advance.
"Large 'C' range is unsatisfactory.
A person with 79% shouldn't get the same grade as a person with 60%".
Most readers will see Prof McFarland's dilemma here. The
student with 78% (the author of this criticism?) was offended that he/she shared that
grade with a poorer student. On the other hand, the student with
60% was very grateful not to get a 'D' !! The only
way to avoid this criticism is to have a larger number of grades, such as
C+ and C-, but these grades are not allowed at UWW. Wish to see
McFarland's grades in Math 143 or Math 250 ?
"Offer more points like graded homework.
Tests are too much weight on the
"Take attendance and
include it in our grade
"Graded homework", "extra credit work", "points for attendence", and "dropping
the lowest scores" are a few common devices some students suggest to raise grades. Prof. McFarland has not used
these devices, and the reason is this: FAIRNESS. Though there
are flaws in every grading system, the grading system should
treat all students equally. "Homework" can be done by committees, and thus
will vary in quality depending upon who your sources are. "Extra credit"
leaves room for abuse of the student-teacher relationship. "Attendance" does not
correlate with learning: students have failed tests without missing a class.
"Dropping lowest scores" rewards unsteady performers and penalizes those who try
to understand everything.
"Give credit for internet quizzes"
"Web quizzes should be due Sunday, not Saturday"
Math 143Math 250
Prof McFarland created these quizzes during the Fall 2000 semester,
and he was unsure how students would react to them (they proved helpful).
The original clumsy software was re-written, and starting Spring of 2001,
a small credit will be offered to encourage students
to use them, since they appear to have raised students' grades in both
Math 143 and Math 250 by
about half a letter grade. Starting with Spring 2004, the web quizzes are due
late Sunday, and so far, this change has allowed more students to use them.
"Do harder example problems"
From similar comments by other students, it appears that certain
test questions must have seemed harder than the examples done in
class, which Prof McFarland had thought were of the same
level of difficulty. To a certain extent, "difficulty" (like beauty)
is in the eye of the beholder, but since this criticism was
written, Prof McFarland has tried extra hard to make
test questions no harder than classroom examples.
This student, and others, would prefer that the topic of Probability
be simply deleted from the course, regardless of how it is taught.
Alas, it is currently seen as an important skill by the Business School.
"Act like a child more often"
"We want carrots and celery,
not pretzels and chocolate"
(not possible)4 dydx