Reflections on evaluations and (critical) feedback

The never ending evaluation cycle…

Recently, I have held a number of internal and external higher education workshops.

Due to the suggestions of the participants of the first workshops, I had changed some parts of my concept and was now curious to see how these interventions would be received. Surprisingly for me, those parts that were praised initially were now partially criticized. Also those parts were partially criticized which I had taken up (or changed) due to the wishes of previous participants. On the other hand, parts that I left in the workshop despite criticism from the last time participants were now positively appreciated. 

I know these contradictory statements from teaching evaluations of my own courses and lectures at my university:

“It helps that you teach with a headset microphone.” versus “I find it ridiculous and annoying that you teach with a headset microphone.”

“The speed is just right for me” versus “It’s all going way too fast (slow) for me.”

“I find the online units very helpful” versus “I don’t like the online units at all”.

“I think it’s very good how we’re developing the content step by step on the blackboard.” versus “I find it annoying when I don’t get a finished (printed) picture served.” 

And so on…

Of course there is a natural dispersion in many aspects of teaching and learning, but especially with polar and conflicting evaluation results one can start to wonder whether one is doing it right or wrong.

What do I personally learn from this?

1) Small group sizes cannot per se convey a representative picture. Each group unfolds a different dynamic, which also results from the interaction of the individual participants. Although this is a truism, we sometimes tend to take criticism personally and/or professionally very seriously. Especially if we have reflected intensively on the instructional design beforehand.

2) It is unlikely that the expectations and needs of all participants can be fully satisfied. Therefore a seemingly unconditional positive feedback should be rather critically questioned. This holds true for the reverse case as well.

3) Diplomatically phrased statements like „I would have wished for…“ indicate individual needs, which do no not have to coincide with the wishes of other participants or the intended learning outcome of the workshop. Each participant has his or her own truth. And this applies to the instructor or coach as well…

Conclusion: Although evaluations and feedback can provide important indications for interventions, the instructor or coach is responsible for a theoretically and conceptually sound workshop concept. Not every criticism or suggestion should lead directly to an intervention.

In other words: Stay true to the intended learning outcome and the corresponding instructional design. Intervene cautiously and not erratically. Do not let yourself be carried away by the wishes of selected participants who speak out loud.

Workshop on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at ExAcT – RWTH Aachen University, 3 June 2019


On 3 June 2019, I held a workshop on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at ExAcT, RWTH Aachen University in Aachen. Together with eleven participants, mainly research assistants, Ph.D. candidates and postdocs, we were exploring aspects of the SoTL concept. As always, it was interesting to see how the participants approached the concept. SoTL is primarily concerned with the systematic inquiry into teaching and learning of students, but essentially postulates a professional attitude. A conceptual introduction cannot replace a more in-depth examination of the methodological and methodical foundations of teaching and learning research. However, it represents the first step towards a changed view of one’s own actions in academic teaching. Ultimately, I received valuable feedback from the participants to further refine the workshop concept. I am looking forward to return to RWTH Aachen in October.

New book chapter on academic self-concept in explorative learning designs (in German)

Mucha, A., & Decker, C. (2018).
Das akademische Selbstkonzept als Adventure Capital in explorativen Lernumgebungen. In Problembasiertes Lernen, Projektorientierung, forschendes lernen & beyond: Tagungsband zum 7. Tag der Lehre an der FH St. Pölten am 18.10.2018 (S. 51 – 60). St. Pölten: Fachhochschule St. Pölten.

New article on Internationalisation-at-Home (in German)

New article:

Decker, C., Mucha, A., & Gille, M. (2018).
Organisationale Diversitätsrendite und individuelle Heterogenitätskosten: Internationalisation-at-Home in einem international ausgerichteten Studiengang. Idie hochschule. journal für wissenschaft und bildung 1–2, 138-146.

New book chapter on team teaching in e-learning and blended learning settings

Decker, C., & Frielitz, F. (2018).
Team Teaching in E-Learning and Blended Learning Settings. In B. Jansen-Schulz, & T. Tantau (ed.), Excellent Teaching. Principles, Structures and Requirements (p. 291 – 302). Bielefeld: WBV/W. Bertelsmann.

New publication on doctoral studies as explorative learning environments (in German)

New article:

Mucha, A., & Decker, C. (2017)

Der Dissertationsprozess als explorative Lernumgebung: Warum erfolgreiches Promovieren (auch) eine Frage der sozialen Herkunft ist. In: ZDfm. Zeitschrift für Diversitätsforschung und -management 2(2), 29 – 34.

Link to article (restricted access)


New publication on Learning-how-to-learn (in German)

New article:

Mucha, A., Decker, C., & Szmigielski, D. (2017).
Learning-how-to-learn oder Sich selbst eine gute Lehrperson sein. Zu mehr Selbstkompetenz durch Selbstreflexion. In J. Haag, J. Weißenböck, W. Gruber, & C. F. Freisleben-Teutscher (Hrsg.), Deeper Learning – (wie) geht das?!: Tagungsband zum 6. Tag der Lehre an der FH St. Pölten am 19.10.2017 (S. 37 – 47). St. Pölten: Fachhochschule St. Pölten.

TDL17 FH St. Pölten

New publication on learning styles and instructional design (in German)

New article:

Decker, C., & Mucha, A. (2017).
Der Lernstilansatz als Inspiration für die universitäre Lehre: Theoretische Grundlagen und exemplarische Anwendung. In B. Berendt, A. Fleischmann, N. Schaper, B. Szczyrba, & J. Wildt (Hrsg.), Neues Handbuch Hochschullehre (Griffmarke A 3.25). Berlin: DUZ.

Conference presentation on research-based learning in corporate finance

Forschendes Lernen

On 27 September 2017, Anna Mucha and I presented our findings on a research-based learning intervention at the research conference “Forschendes Lernen – The Wider View” which took place at Wilhelms-Universität Münster.  In our presentation entitled “Bridging the Gap – From Passive Reading to Active Research”, we elaborated on an instructional design that was introduced in the Corporate Finance course of the Master of International Business Programme (M. Sc.) at HAW Hamburg. The instructional design consists of five core phases:

Phase 1: Transparent explanation of instructional design to students
Phase 2: Reception and reflection of selected seminal papers of Nobel laureates in groups of two students
Phase 3: Development of a new (own) research question
Phase 4: Exploration of the new problem
Phase 5: Presentation of (i) seminal paper and (ii) own research findings to other course participants

The instructional design helps to overcome the gap between reception of research findings (and underlying methods) on the one hand side and production (derivation) of new research findings (using newly acquired research methods) on the other hand side. Thereby, students are guided from “learning about research” via “learning for research” to “learning through research”.

In 2018, a summary of our findings will be published in the conference proceedings.

New publication on case-based written examinations (in German)

New article:

Die fallstudienbasierte Klausur als schriftliche Prüfungsleistung: Ein Beispiel für die kompetenzorientierte Restrukturierung einer Modulprüfung. In J. Haag, J. Weißenböck, W. Gruber, & C. F. Freisleben-Teutscher (Hrsg.), Kompetenzorientiert Lehren und Prüfen. Basics – Modelle – Best Practices: Tagungsband zum 5. Tag der Lehre an der FH St. Pölten am 20.10.2016. St. Pölten: Fachhochschule St. Pölten, S. 77 – 86.

TDL16 FH St. Pölten

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Night train to St. Pölten (5. Tag der Lehre 2016)

On Thursday, 20 October 2016, I jumped on the night train to St. Pölten in Austria in order to attend a conference on competency-based education (5. Tag der Lehre: „Kompetenzorientiert Lehren und Prüfen“). After a strenuous ride in a very small train compartment, I arrived at the FH St. Pölten in order to discuss various aspects of competency-based education.

For the first time, I participated in a so called “DisqSpace”, a relatively new discussion format that is designed to allow for a higher level of interaction between the presenting speaker and the audience. In each corner of a room, a topic is presented by a guest speaker. All speakers and topics are introduced by a moderator. Thereafter, the participants split up into four groups, which will ascribe themselves to an individual corner (topic). After 15 to 20 minutes the groups rotate and move on to the next “station”. Within 60 to 90 minutes, the audience has visited all corners (topics) of the room.


  • A smaller number of participants will be able to listen to a presented topic and discuss individual questions with the guest speaker.
  • Participants are able to attend four interrelated presentations on a given general topic, thereby identifying connections and realizing different solution approaches.


  • The guest speaker has to present the topic four times in succession in a very condensed way, which I experienced as somehow exhausting.
  • Interesting and lively discussions might have to be aborted when the group has to move on to the next corner (topic).

The poster can be found at slideshare:

Die fallstudienbasierte Klausur als schriftliche Prüfungsleistung from Christian Decker

As always, the conference was perfectly organized by the friendly team of SKILL @ FH St. Pölten: Thank you very much!

And I really enjoyed the vegan stuffed peppers at the lunch buffet!

Pre-conference interview “Kompetenzorientierung mit fallstudienbasierten Klausuren”, Tag der Lehre 2016, FH St. Pölten, Austria (in German)

The pre-conference interview on “Kompetenzorientierung mit fallstudienbasierten Klausuren” with Christian F. Freisleben-Teutscher and me is now available on YouTube:

More information can be found one the website of “SKILL – Service und Kompetenzzentrum für Innovatives Lehren und Lernen” @ FH St.Pölten.

@ Christian F. Freisleben-Teutscher: Thank you very much for the interview!

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