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Fall 2016 - Individual Comment Report for Benjamin Miller

ENGCMP 1510 - WRITING WITH STYLE - 1030 - Seminar
2171 - Teaching Survey
Total Enrollment 18
Responses Received 17
Response Rate 94.44%

Subject Details

Report Comments
Responses to open-ended questions

Creation Date Thu, Dec 29, 2016
What were the instructor's major strengths?

He is enthusiastic about all of his students' writing. He came up with a multitude of very specific suggestions in order to
help direct everyone's works in progress.
Very helpful and knowledgeable, kept a good attitude, made a writing class interesting!
Provided specific constructive feedback, facilitated excellent class discussions, encouraged students to offer feedback
to peers, gave students many options to fit their personal preferences
Ben was really great at making students think. He would repeat what students were saying back to them to see if he
was adequately understanding their point. He encouraged a more complex look at language, often by putting examples
up on the screen and visually showing how meaning changes when you organize thoughts differently. Ben encouraged
discussion, and on days when the class was not as talkative he allowed us to submit anonymously why we potentially
felt uncomfortable or unengaged with discussion that day. He assigned quizzes that kept students accountable and
gauged learning, but he didn't grade them in a way that punished students for not getting it.
Very knowledgeable of the subject matter. Able to discuss the parts of a sentence with the right jargon.
Open and accessible to students. Gave good examples or explanation of writing styles or choices that were easy to
understand. Helped students improve writing not just with style but also what the student wanted to improve on.
Ben was always super helpful and available if I had questions. He would go over my writing anytime I had a question
and his feedback was always pretty clear.
Extremely knowledgeable about writing, great tips on how to improve my writing.
Easily accessible physically and otherwise, straightforward and clear about expectations, reasonable coursework
- His ability to pivot and re-stimulate the class when discussion was not moving forward.
- Both his knowledge of and ability to apply writing skills were extremely beneficial, in an exemplary fashion.
- His willingness to be flexible with students with complex schedules.
Very engaging, always willing to incorporate suggestions from students and base classes on what students found
difficult or interesting.
He was consistently available and approachable. I appreciate the extra effort he took to make the class more open
ended. I rarely felt "forced" to do an assignment because I had a choice of many.
Extremely knowledgeable, approachable, and enthusiastic about the subject. He genuinely cares about his students
and pushes them to produce the best work they can. Ben is the best writing teacher I've had at Pitt.
You give good suggestions and are very, verrry passionate about writing words and letters on slices of cut tree.
He was knowledgeable to the criteria of the course and always able to meet with you to work on each individuals overall
progress as a writer.
Ben was an amazing, generous, and organized professor. He really looked out for you and made sure you are
improving as a writer. You can tell he really cares about the class and his students.

Benjamin Miller ( ENGCMP 1510 - WRITING WITH STYLE - 1030 - Seminar) 2/5
What were the instructor's major weaknesses?

Class activities/discussions were not always super engaging. There would sometimes be awkward silences as most
of the class wouldn't be super interested in what we were talking about.
Sometimes it felt like he would put people on the spot and he'd get a little over-excited. I'm not sure why, but
occasionally it felt intimidating to speak up. There was undoubtedly a welcoming environment, but somehow I was
sometimes afraid to contribute.
Opening up the class to discussion is sometimes prohibitive when the students are not comfortable with the material,
and do not want to be wrong.
Unable to always get students to talk about their own opinion or feedback on writings or examples in class
Concepts felt rushed, too much busy work on the weekend, not enough time to focus on actually constructed pieces. A
bit nit-picky, not enough time to focus on entire piece, often. Generally received constructed feedback on a few
sentences because of this. I don't prefer the "contract level" grading system. It made it difficult on where I can improve
my grade, my writing, and where to focus my attention.
- Some of the peer review assignments on EliReview were so broad that I would have a hard time honing in on what to
practice for each unit (granted, I understand and appreciate his attempt to make the reviews cumulative, in a sense).
Maybe left the class a bit too open at times. It's a difficult balance, but sometimes we were kind of just left to discuss
and that didn't always produce what a structured lecture/discussion may have
I think it would have been helpful to have been more assertive during the in-class workshops, and get people to
comment more. It often seemed that people were sort of "phoning it in" during the workshops.
Sometimes class discussions dragged a little, but we would usually switch topics if that was the case
It's really annoying when we had to pay $25 for that annoying Eli Review crap, we could have easily had a free and better
alternative. Like, seriously, $25 for a crappy online review thing for writing? What a waste and what a turn-off. Also, the
wiki is a bit annoying too, find a better system where formatting doesn't have to be done manually with stars and
slashes and shit. You gave out an annoying and steady amount of work, which sucks because this is a gen-ed class
Very few weaknesses. For the sake of putting something here, I had trouble hearing him at some points during class. A
reason for that was wear I was seated, and another was his volume & his slight tendency to trail off (lowers voice at end
of statement).

Benjamin Miller ( ENGCMP 1510 - WRITING WITH STYLE - 1030 - Seminar) 3/5
What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

Reading through each one of the Bacon's chapters and doing the exercises she provided us with was extremely
helpful. It forced me to learn different writing techniques. Because I actually knew the names of the different techniques,
it was easier to employ them in my writing.
The whole thing, bacon is a great book
Receiving peer feedback in class and group workshops, receiving and offering feedback on Eli Review, having many
opportunities to revise my work
Ben showcased the need for naming grammar techniques. I learned that if you want to be able to do a technique
intentionally, it's extremely important to have a name for it. Being able to manipulate language more intentionally is the
most beneficial takeaway.
Looking at writing from the micro-scale has changed the way in which I write, edit, and revise. The most helpful part of
the class was learning how to use punctuation effectively.
The examples and explanations of different writing styles and choices helped improved my writing and clarified some
previous confusion with it.
Group workshops were really helpful, but small group ones not so much.
Bacon, and eli review.
The peer reviews and workshops
- Consistent engagement with peers: it was great having peers who cared about writing comment on my pieces.
- Freedom of topic: I never felt pigeonholed on an assignment.
- Time/exercises for reflection on self-writing: beyond "general revision", I have never had an instructor dedicate this
much time to this subject, and I greatly appreciated it.
Made me very conscious of grammar and stylistic options when writing. Much better at editing my own papers and
I think an understatement of some of the finer details of writing that I had noticed before in reading, but could not pin
down the exact method. This course pointed out these techniques very well.
The detailed examination of using grammar to change sentence meaning helps bring a whole new dimension to my
writing. Small group workshops allowed for great amounts of detailed feedback on my work, and having the same
groups helped reviewers see the evolution of a piece and offer feedback from that perspective.
I learned some new fancy vocab about parts of sentences and learned how to improve my writing
The practice. Practicing every week, especially with new ideas to try from Bacon, improved my writing drastically in
different areas. I learned new techniques to try out when trying to achieve a specific function. I loved the wiki, as
opposed to course web; it felt more organized and personal to my writing.

Benjamin Miller ( ENGCMP 1510 - WRITING WITH STYLE - 1030 - Seminar) 4/5
What suggestions do you have to improve the course?

I think I actually would have benefitted from more periodic quizzes. I think we did about three or four this semester to
make sure that we understood the chapter. Doing those quizzes and then going over them in class really helped the
information stick in my head.
Grade quizzes based on participation
I was thinking that maybe during workshops, instead of only working with printed copies, we could pull a student's work
up on the projector and rearrange it visually. Instead of a student suggesting changes on their own copies, we could
also visually try out those changes on the big screen.
Perhaps ELI is not the best platform. I disliked the commenting features.
Maybe vary the people in the reviewing groups more so people get more access to different opinions and viewpoints for
their writings.
Class felt very repetitive at times and I think that changing up the structure would be helpful.
More examples than just what is in the book
Although wiki is a great tool for organization, I'm not sure how necessary it was to learning...I would have liked more in-
class writing time, not just "workshop." This could be done in groups, instead of just an extension.I think small group
workshops are sufficient enough through Eli Review; in-class, small group workshops were overdone. Maybe 1 in-
class workshop Tues., 1 in-class writing Thurs., etc.
- Keeping the Bacon book as the main text helped keep things simple, but bringing in an extra piece or two from a
different genre as readings might challenge students further. This is a practice that Ben did, but I think it could have
added value if slightly furthered.
Maybe a bit more structure. Even at the end, many classes were just revisions, which is fine, but I kind of ran out of
things to revise, especially working with the same group that revised my work through Eli. They'd already seen
everything I had. If we should have written more things for each class, maybe that should be an easily identifiable
assignment, because it felt like a suggestion.
Something I would have liked to have tried would be having multiple people write about the same thing: imagined
dialogue between two known people, or a description of the same event. This would provide some insight into how
other people would tackle writing about the same thing as me, and how they put their spin on it.
A day more on the dry "parts of a sentence" stuff isn't fun, but it would be very helpful to review the things we've learned
from that section. Also, I never quite got into the swing of things with the Eli posting and reviewing schedule; by the time
Thursday is done, I'm done thinking about Tu/Th classes, so having us post sometime in that frame might be helpful.
Give out less work, it is just a gen-ed class, so you should make it easy to pass and not a nuisance to worry about.
Also, don't make the students pay for some shitty expensive software
To be honest, I don't think EliReview was completely necessary. I think something could have been arranged on the wiki
where you can still review other people's pieces by commenting on them. I found Eli to be a little cumbersome and
didn't help me enough where I saw my writing take the next step.

Benjamin Miller ( ENGCMP 1510 - WRITING WITH STYLE - 1030 - Seminar) 5/5

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