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Spring 2017 - Comment Report for Benjamin Miller

ENGLIT 2525 - COMPOSITION STUDIES - 1300 - Seminar
2174 - Teaching Survey
Total Enrollment 8
Responses Received 4
Response Rate 50.0%

Subject Details
DEPARTMENT_CD ENGLISH
CAMPUS_CD PIT
SCHOOL_CD ARTSC
CLASS_NBR 30805
COURSE_NUMBER 2525
SECTION_NUMBER 1300

Report Comments
Responses to open-ended questions

Creation Date Thu, May 18, 2017
What were the instructor's major strengths?

Comments
Ben is really enthusiastic about learning. This attitude is infectious, and overall, makes for a really fun and productive
learning environment.
The construction of the course was excellent in that it provided an overview of key topics and trends in comp, but aside
from the material what I most appreciated was the way Ben managed the classroom. I hope to steal a number of his
moves, especially his techniques when it comes to asking questions.
Ben was very organized and thoughtful in the construction of the syllabus and the layout of each seminar meeting. I
really liked the workflow of the serve/response/project presentation rhythm. This workflow allowed students to direct the
way we used reading and discussion in tandem with the central questions of the course.

Ben is also probably one of the best teachers I've had when it comes to facilitation. He is really good at picking up on
what one person says and connecting it to what another person says.
a really organized class plan every time, even if once we got going we deviated from it. Very open about his own
teaching and ideas without seeming like we must agree˾nact those things.
This format also surprised me in that in made the writing response˽iscussion posts much more important˿ruitful than
in other classes I've taken—it felt like there was continuity between class and the discussion boards (even if we didn't
pick up Ben's provocation to extend in-class discussions and mostly just built up for class)

What were the instructor's major weaknesses?

Comments
Perhaps related to the above, I did notice a tendency during discussions to go down winding paths that didn't really lead
anywhere. Another way to say this is that he too often gets stuck in minutiae and overlooks the more important aspects
of the material.
Sometimes tangents, while useful, strayed a little far from the material. That's nitpicking, though; classes were
uniformly excellent.
Ben is an outstanding teacher. Sometimes, (like all of us) he goes off topic and it is sometimes hard to follow exactly
what path he is going down in discussion. That said, he does always return to the main topic. Another minor thing is
that Ben spends a lot of time framing the readings for each week. This could be because this is the first time he taught
the course and wants to justify why he selected what he did for readings? It's super useful to go through that kind of
framing of readings, but just wanted to offer a sort of heads-up on watching the amount of time spent.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

Comments
Hearing Ben's take on the history of composition was really interesting. He did an excellent job of framing things in new
and accessible ways.
Ben's class was superb. As said above, both the material and his teaching were genuinely inspiring. It's difficult to
overstate his impact on my teaching and thinking.
I loved the workflow, the readings, Ben's facilitation, his openness and genuine interest in the topic (to include how
students interacted with the readings and topics). It was an outstanding class, one of the best I've taken.
Truthfully, just the scope of the readings and their organization was very helpful, esp. with Ben's knowledge of the field—
they helped me understand (at least one) version of composition history that otherwise would have escaped my
knowledge at pitt (the process movement! who knew?)

Benjamin Miller (ENGLIT 2525 - COMPOSITION STUDIES - 1300 - Seminar) 2/3
What suggestions do you have to improve the course?

Comments
1) Why not have the students read NWWK as a whole during the first week? This sort of broad overview of the field
would be useful.
2) Why not assign a comprehensive history (like James Berlin's Rhetoric and Reality)? This would be entertaining, and
like the above, would work to provide an overview of the field, which is now lacking.
3) The in-class work period is ABSOLUTELY USELESS. What's the thinking behind this? Only 3 hours a week are set
aside for group engagement, I don't see why Ben wants to sacrifice this.
4) Some of the other students were not doing graduate-level work in their weekly presentations. A Prezi that repeats
information found on a junior professor's webpage? That's not furthering the work of the university!
5) Related to the above,I would have liked to see more engagement with the IDEAS that define composition, rather than
just the meta-structure of the field. I know that Ben's interests tend towards the latter, but in a class like this, I think it
would be more useful to the students to put more of an emphasis on the former.
The weeks with the project presentations were significantly more work than those with readings or serves, but that's
perhaps unavoidable.
I really have only very minor things to suggest. I mentioned them already in the weakness part. Great course, great
teacher. Very thoughtful.
Nothing? Ben talked about wanting to do more of "these are scholarly moves you could make" kinds of moments, which
I do think would have been helpful, not only as models for us but also because they might have helped us parse
different readings and their purposes—theoretical vs RAD vs pedagogical (although of course there was overlap). Our
class seemed to get stuck the most when we read something more "purely" theoretical.

Benjamin Miller (ENGLIT 2525 - COMPOSITION STUDIES - 1300 - Seminar) 3/3