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 publications on case-based examinations and poster conferences (in German)

Two new articles:

Decker, C. (2017)

Fallbasierte Klausuren. In J. Gerick, A. Sommer, & G. Zimmermann (Hrsg.), Kompetent Prüfungen gestalten: 50 Prüfungsformate für die Hochschullehre (S. 80 – 83). Münster: Waxmann/UTB.

Posterkonferenzen. In J. Gerick, A. Sommer, & G. Zimmermann (Hrsg.), Kompetent Prüfungen gestalten: 50 Prüfungsformate für die Hochschullehre (S. 185 – 188). Münster: Waxmann/UTB.

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.

Workshop on “Online courses” at Universität zu Lübeck, 12 & 13 June 2017

On 12 and 13 June 2017, I held a workshop on “Online courses in higher education” at Dozierenden-Service-Center (DSC), Universität zu Lübeck. Together with seven participants, I was exploring selected facets of online teaching.

Among others, we did a card assisted brainstorming on identifying characteristics of “online courses”. It still seems to be a challenge to find a consistent idea among a group of informed participants about what characterises an “online course”. Maybe this should not come as a surprise since the term carries many connotations. Moreover, I observed that discussions tend to become more fruitful when moving away from technological aspects while approaching higher education issues (i.e. instructional design aspects).

@ Dr. Bettina Jansen-Schulz: Thank you very much for the invitation and your sympathy and support!

Observations on the implementation of the ICM – Presentation@Nordakademie

cszjuz4wiaair5fYesterday, I shared my experiences regarding the inverted classroom model (ICM) with a group of colleagues from Nordakademie. After an insightful introduction to the ICM from Simon Hachenberg, I reported on the implementation of the ICM in two of my courses: Finance (German language) and Academic research and writing (English language). Both courses form part of bachelor programs. Whereas I introduced the ICM in my Finance course by way of a “big bang” in 2013, I phased in the ICM in my course Academic research and writing between summer 2012 and summer 2016.

During my presentation, I elaborated on observations, which in some parts correspond with other field reports but also go beyond what has been reported previously. The observations are as follows:

Observation 1

A significant number of students prefer traditional types of instruction (e.g. lecture) because they are associated with a reduced workload in comparison to the ICM.

Reaction/advise: Ignore!

Observation 2

A signifikant number of students show deficiencies if it comes to self-organisation, i. e. time and project management.

Reaction/advise: Strong guidance by way of pre-defined milestones and assignments as well as constant reminders by way of text messages and/or e-mails.

Observation 3

Students prefer informal means of information exchange (Facebook, WhatsApp etc.) instead of a formal information exchange (e.g. message boards in LMS).

Reaction/advise: Accept and keep using the formal channels!

Observation 4

The attention span of “digital natives” is remarkably low. A (perceived) cognitive overload may lead to discontinuation or jumping within video tutorials.

Reaction/advise: Information chunking!

Observation 5

Students do not understand how to receive and how to reflect upon information from video tutorials.

Reaction/advise: Explain and train how to work with video tutorials!

Observation 6

Due to individual cognitive conditions and preferences, some students are not good at learning with videos.

Reaction/advise: Create various access points to the content of the course (UDL)!

cszjttgwiaakqj5Especially the last observation leaves room for a further development of the ICM. However, didactical designs based upon an UDL approach require a tremendous amount of resources in terms of time and money if they are individually developed by instructors and/or educational institutions. An alternative might be the use of OER (see for example my own course on academic research and writing) or the sourcing of commercially produced course materials, which might eventually even be cheaper.

New e-book on Academic research and writing

I am happy to announce that the e-book version of “Academic research and writing” has been published today.

It looks awesome on my Kindle and on my iPad… :-))


Christian Decker & Rita Werner
Academic research and writing. A concise introduction
iCADEMICUS, Frankfurt am Main 2016
ISBN: 978-3-9815-5862-3 (E-book)
Price: 10.99 Euro (Germany)

Product details e-book

Textbook donation to HAW Hamburg’s library

Today, I donated 50 copies of my new textbook to the library of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences.


Since I do not want my students to spend money on my textbooks, the copies will predominantly be reserved for participants of my courses on academic research and writing.

New textbook on Academic research and writing

Ultimately, after a three year long design phase, our textbook on “Academic research and writing” was published today. We spent substantial time and effort in order to create a textbook that corresponds with our e-learning tutorials and forms part of a classroom-tested, fully integrated and competency-based teaching concept.

The book is available in North America and Europe.

Academic research and writing 9783981558616

Christian Decker & Rita Werner
Academic research and writing. A concise introduction
iCADEMICUS, Frankfurt am Main 2016
ISBN: 978-3-9815-5861-6 (Paperback)
Price: 16.90 Euro (Germany)

Product details paperback

Workshops on “Inverted Classroom” at Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe, Lemgo, 28 & 29 April 2016

Last week, I held two inspiring workshops on the inverted classroom model for some highly motivated colleagues at Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe. After an unnerving breakdown of my car (transmission failure) at the periphery of Lemgo, I arrived just in time for the start of the first workshop. However, the whole team and the participants were quite empathic and helpful.

During the workshop, we had some lively, productive and insightful discussions that will help me to further refine the workshop concept.


@ Doris Ternes & Melanie Reddeker: Thank you very much for the invitation and your sympathy and support!

Successful completion of advanced training on competency-based education, 14 October 2015

Today, I was awarded my certificate of completion in competency-based examination. The last twelve months were packed with seminars, self-study and didactical projects. I experienced a rewarding introduction to a theoretical concept of high practical value. Especially, the discussions with my colleagues were worthwhile and I received a great number of intellectual stimuli. I am looking forward to the implementation and further refinement of this fascinating concept.


@ Oliver Reis: Thank you very much for a year full of insights!

Workshop on “Competency-based education” with Dr. Dr. Oliver Reis @ Department Wirtschaft, HAW Hamburg

On December 18, 2014 we had a stunning five hour long workshop on “competency-based education” with Oliver Reis at the Department of Business. Approximately 25 colleagues were attentively listening to Oliver’s presentation. It is always a pleasure to attend Oliver’s workshops.

2014-12-18 14.47.46

@ Oliver: Thank you very much for the instructive and inspirational presentation!

Second AIM student poster research conference on Country Risk

On December 17, 2014 the second AIM student poster research conference took place at HAW Hamburg. Together with co-instructors Natalia Ribberink and Tine Schrammel, I organised the printing and hanging of the students’ posters.


Dean Dr. Pape awarded Thyra Dahl, Alyssa Uecker and Jan Meyer with the instructor’s best poster award.

We would like to thank Dr. Pape as well as all visitors and students for participating in the event!

New article on empirical evidence of inverted classroom model at HAW Hamburg

New article:

The Instructor as Navigator: Empirical Evidence of the Implementation of the ICM at HAW Hamburg, in: J. Handke und E.-M. Großkurth (Hrsg.), The Inverted Classroom Model – the 3rd German ICM-Conference – Proceedings, Gruyter, Berlin 2014, pp. 3 – 13. (together with Stephan Beier)


Night train to St. Pölten (3. Tag der Lehre 2014)

Right after having finished our presentation at the “Tag der Lehre 2014” at HAW Hamburg, Stephan Beier and I jumped on the night train to St. Pölten in Austria. Thankfully operated by ÖBB and not DB, which was affected by a country-wide rail strike, we were heading towards the next conference at FH St. Pölten in order to participate in the “ICM Werkstatt” and to present our poster on academic research and writing at the conference “3. Tag der Lehre 2014“.


Our poster can be found at slideshare:

In the evening, we had a beer and an entertaining conversation with the German “grandmaster” of higher education, Rolf Schulmeister. A pleasant finale for two strenuous but rewarding days!

First AIM student poster research conference on Entrepreneurship

On June 18, 2014 the first AIM student poster research conference took place at HAW Hamburg. Together with co-instructor Stephan Beier, I organised the printing and hanging of the students’ posters.

Bildschirmfoto 2015-04-27 um 21.49.42

Dean Dr. Pape awarded three students with the instructor’s best poster award.

Bildschirmfoto 2015-04-27 um 22.00.44

Here is one of the awarded posters. It was prepared by Dawid Szmigielski:

Bildschirmfoto 2015-04-27 um 21.33.57

Margitta Holler and Ivan Belyaev filmed the event and interviewed some of the participants. The video will be posted later on YouTube.

Stephan Beier and I would like to thank Dr. Pape, Margitta Holler and Ivan Belyaev as well as all visitors and students for participating in the event!

Presentation on ICM @ E-Learning Roundtable – HAW Hamburg

Stephan Beier and I presented a shortened version of our slides from the “Tag der Lehre 2013” at the “E-Learning Roundtable” of HAW Hamburg.

Bildschirmfoto 2015-04-27 um 23.18.52

Consistently, colleagues are fascinated by the inverted classroom model. Again, we received a very positive feedback and encouraging comments from the audience, which keeps us motivated and rewards us for the efforts of the last years.

@ Christoph Wegmann: Thank you very much for the invitation!

Cookie Consent Banner by Real Cookie Banner