Student Feedback

A vital part of my teaching pedagogy involves metacognition and reflective writing. The following are excerpts from mid-course and final reflective letters, as well as emails and Facebook posts, written by students around the world who have taken my courses. Click the course title to view its syllabus; click the students’ names to visit their course blogs and to view each quote’s original source. Feedback is available from the following courses:

 

MA THESIS IN ENGLISH, CAPSTONE COURSE

“Let me first and foremost say that Dr. Harrison is the primary component that powered my capstone course. He simply makes things click within the mind of his graduate students. I’ve had the pleasure of being his pupil twice and I cannot speak enough to the dedication and thought he wills into his courses. He is obviously an instructor that does not want to be underwhelmed or bored by the work his students submit. Dr. Harrison pushes, prods, and teases new avenues of expression and academic work from his class. He is vigilant, involved, timely, stern, understanding, and above all: in favor of academic pantheons growing with each course he leads.” – Dan, SNHU

My final professor has been extremely helpful in allowing me to be creative and to think outside of the box of rules that we students are often corralled into either by our instructors or fear. He gave me permission to involve myself in my work and become a part of it in a way that I had not had permission to do so before. Having the opportunity to talk with my professor throughout the process really helped me to center myself more because my topic had lots of avenues I might have taken rather than the aim of my intent. What I gleaned most from it felt like a graduation in thought. I recognized that I was no more the student taking full direction from my instructor. I became the instructor for my own project. The freedom that it gave me really boosted my confidence although it was by no means less frightening. My project was really my project to write as I chose. Yes, I had to remain within a certain academic realm and requirements, but I had the freedom to explore and present my topic in the way that I wanted and I liked it.” – Quo, SNHU

The capstone class was initially the most nerve-wracking and daunting for me because it seemed too glacial to overcome. However, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the class. Dr. Harrison was unquestionably the most personal, invested teacher I encountered in my experience at SNHU. He made himself completely available for our needs as students and provided the enthusiasm and insight necessary to help me succeed in my creating my thesis. The creation of my thesis was a beautiful melding of my years as a teacher and the literature analysis I had experienced at SNHU. My topic allowed me to vocalize the many methods I had been using my classroom for the last seven years and prove their effectiveness. Using autoethnography really enabled me to reflect on my successes as a teacher and evaluate my methods in an analytical way that I have not done before.”  – Laura, SNHU

Dr. Marlen Harrison really instilled a sense of clear organization as being key to a successful paper and overall outcome; which is something that I lacked tremendously prior to this course and I am quite thankful for his guidance as organization, I now realize, is key and truly much easier in keeping thoughts clear and concise when trying to accomplish everyday tasks or when attempting to create a 35 page monster. In regards to the capstone, I must admit I was thoroughly intimidated by the entire process and everything involved with creating a 35 page thesis. With much patience from Dr. Harrison, I was able to calm down and, in my opinion, submit a very publication-worthy, quality product. The challenges that I faced were mostly internal and self-inflicted as I had self-sabotaged myself into believing that there was no way that I was capable of completing 35 pages of intelligent scholarship as I had never encountered anything quite this large or of this significance in my educational career. After speaking with Dr. Harrison, he was able to calm my nerves through positive reinforcement and I was able to sit down and create an outline which truly helped me break down what exactly it was that I wanted to accomplish and how I wanted to go about accomplishing it. Overall, I do not think that I would have been able to complete my thesis without Dr. Harrison constantly reminding me that I am capable of doing so. Also, by requiring and suggesting to us that we speak with him every week or so to discuss progress, Dr. Harrison helped quite a bit with my procrastination. Because I knew that I had to speak with him and discuss my progress, I knew that I was unable to put off doing my work until the last minute. My experience within this capstone were largely pleasant. Once I was able to overcome a few of my personal qualms, I found that, with the help of Dr. Harrison and my peers, my paper came together quite nicely.” – Jes, SNHU

“This class was totally unique in that I have never talked to an SNHU professor as much as I have talked to Marlen. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, being able to text him with questions and the scheduled phone calls made him more available (that’s not the right word). It made me feel like he was genuinely working with me even though he’s also my professor. Does that make sense? The phone calls really helped me is I guess what I’m trying to say. I learned (or remembered rather) that writing can be fun. I think I’d forgotten that. I also learned that researching anything you’re interested in doesn’t feel like researching.” – Shannon, SNHU

COMPOSITION THEORY & PEDAGOGY (GRADUATE)

“Dear Marlen, First, I must commend you for the way you conducted the class. I really appreciated the way you interacted with us on a constant basis. I felt that you are sincerely proud of what you do, and I must say that unquestionably you are one of the few professors I have had who actually believe in their students and their ability to be successful. You provided so much information for each lesson, your involvement was laudable, and the information you posted at the beginning of and during each week had a positive impact on my ability to grasp the material.” Carlton, SNHU

“I cannot end without noting how wonderful the experience of Eng-555 has been. This is the course I will not forget. The attention to detail, guidance, abundant resources, gentle prodding, and your passion for what you do has left an indelible place for me in the memory of this academic journey. I wanted to learn because it is so evident that you love to teach. And, I thank you for that, Dr. Marlen.” Quo, SNHU

“Some of what I have learned in this course will be applied to my teaching, and some will be forgotten over time. What will stay with me forever is your kindness, your compassion, and your understanding. From the very first phone call to (I’m sure) the very last comment on a graded assignment, you have made me feel like I matter–like I have value and worth. And from the very beginning of this course when I was thinking about dropping because I was so overwhelmed, you have been supportive and encouraging–telling me, “I’m rooting for you!”, which lifted my spirits more than you can know. You have taught me how to treat other people, and you have taught me how to treat students–and for those gifts I am forever in your debt. I can only hope that I can make my students feel as valued as you have made me feel. I truly believe you guided me through this course like a guardian angel and as a professor. Most importantly, (and with your help) I learned to believe in myself. I never thought I could handle this class, and I am close to finishing. I learned a lot about myself along the way, as well as the spirit of human kindness and the importance of communication. Thanks for everything, Marlen!!” Peggy, SNHU

ACADEMIC WRITING, READING and COMMUNICATION (ESL, Grad/Undergrad)

“I would like to address that this course has gone way beyond my expectations. At the beginning of this course, I was expecting a normal English class, reading lots of books, writing pointless essays, and somewhat boring. But this was not the case, in fact, it was completely the opposite. The way how you teach it and the methods you use force students to overcome the language barriers, motivates us to use the resources and help that the university offers in order to improve our writing skills. One of the things that I was not expecting at all from a professor was to actually have a meeting to talk about my work and get feedback. I think that this is one of the most important and helpful thing a professor could do for his/her students, and I really appreciate you doing this for all of us. One of my greatest challenges in this class was definitely keeping up with all the work that was given and also the fact that you wanted us to go beyond satisfactory. You made us think in a creative way on how we could take our work to a higher level in order to earn a higher grade and at the same time meet your expectations. In other words, I could say that you give us motivation to meet our writing goals, improve our English, and push ourselves beyond the satisfactory.” Maria, UT

“In this letter we are supposed to write about how we, the students, feel about you and your class and express how we think you have helped us improve our English skills. However, before I do that I would like to use this opportunity to do a little bit more than that. During this semester, very few professors had the chance, courage or will to create a relationship between themselves and the students. Most of the professors around here do not even care who is in their classroom, it’s easy for me to see that they are only doing it for the money. So, I would like to thank you, for the effort you put into really becoming friends with your students. It shows that, not only you know how to teach, you do it with passion and with a tiny bit of love. During this semester I think I have improved a lot of things. I am now able to express myself more fluently and without having to stop very often when speaking. Another thing I think I have improved is my spelling, before I started your class my spelling was horrible, but with your help I was able to correct many of my spelling mistakes. A third thing that I have improved along this semester is my forms of writing. Before, I thought that essays where the only way of writing on a high educational level, but you proved me wrong! Turns out, that is not even a third of ways you can write in college.” Jorge, UT

“When I took this course I expected it to be as any language course, and focus to be more in the language, but the course turned out to be quite different, in a positive way. I feel that I’ve learned very much about doing a research, gathering information and writing a research paper. And I’m proud of myself, because this is the first study I’ve done, and I’m only a second-year undergraduate student who hasn’t even started doing her bachelor’s thesis yet. So that’s just reaaaaally cool. ” Annika, JYU

“I’ve learnt a lot during this course: How to plan and carry through a research? What kinds of congresses there are and how to find them? How to write a research paper for international audience? How to search information about a topic? etc.. I can’t really take just one sector that I found out most useful because every smaller part ofthe course interacted with each other. Thank you for the inspiration you gave me,” Jenni, JYU

“For me the most useful assignments were definitely the presentations because I wanted to improve my English presentation skills and be more confident about speaking in English. I think this course has increased my self-confidence on my English skills a lot. I liked especially the interactive way of your teaching although at first I was scared of speaking in English in the class room…. I liked the blog writing and that the homework was done by using Internet. Above all, I want to thank you for being so considerate, inspiring and motivated teacher.” Uulrika, JYU

“I think my English has improved in all areas, speaking, reading and writing. I find especially academic writing much easier after this course. During the course I had to do things that I haven´t done before, for example reading academic journals in English, use the APA style, do a presentation in a small group etc. You are one of the most motivated teacher that I´ve ever had, and that helped to keep my interest in this course.” Reetta, JYU

CRITICAL INFO MANAGEMENT/PROFESSIONAL WRITING (ESL, Grad)

“I have found this course more useful than perhaps either of us imagined. It surprised me, how much of a false sense of security you can lull yourself into when convincing yourself something is correct. This course has been tremendously useful if I only take away being able to write a literature review properly and effectively (there is more I learnt obviously). Even if I read back on what I have written I know that it is not free of “bias” or “error” but I can see most of the errors and even how I can further improve my writing. I can’t thank you enough for the confidence this has given me in my own writing and hopefully I can get my master’s thesis published now that I am much more critical of my own writing and how I can improve it!” Kate, JYU

“I was very impressed by the way the instructor freely expresses himself. I have always had problems speaking out my thoughts, but this course has boosted my expressive ability a lot. I am proud to say that my expectations and the course´s expectations were met in the sense that I actually gained some confidence in expressing myself, I can now choose a challenging research topic and carry out the necessary critical assessment required to complete the research. It is important to point out that, I also came to understand the main differences qualitative and quantitative research. In general I gained more from the course than I anticipated.” Bisong, JYU

“It really has been an enriching experience for me to be part of this course. Mostly because we had the experience to talk about certain things that as a student you’re suppose to know but no one tells you on the way and some times it gets a little hard to figure it out by your own. The course completely change [my] idea when I read the name for first time. It totally surpassed my expectations from what I thought it was going to be about. In a personal opinion and as a kinesthetic learner, for this course I had the opportunity to put my hand on the fire just to experience how the real writing of the thesis is going to be. The most useful experience is that you give us an idea about what it is expected from us in the future when we do professional writing and a lot of tips about what to be careful when writing and to lose the scare to start writing.” Fabian, JYU

“Firstly, I would like to thank you for organizing this wonderful course for us. I really enjoyed it, especially the lecture, the interaction among us during the class, the atmosphere, everything. It was so free, active and interesting. You just threw us into a very relax environment to make us think about the critical issues. That was a very good way for us to know something and to learn something. This course was so helpful for our thesis writing in the future, at least I thought. All the skills or ideas we got during the lectures such as critical thinking and evaluating, resources searching and judging, and academic writing were really useful and practical. Every assignment and each step was just necessary. That was what I understood after all the lectures. They were gradually introducing and guiding us how to implement a critical idea into an academic essay.” Ming Mei, JYU

INTRO TO WORLD LITERATURE (Undergrad)

“So many people think English is all about reading books; it is in fact a large part of English classes but you have shown me that reading, writing and films really are about more than entertainment. Through this class it has been made apparent to me that there is a lot to be learned about ourselves and others from the stories of others’ lives.” Amanda, IUP

“I thought the heroic journey theme of the class worked very well and it definitely had a major impact on the way that I think about literature. It got us thinking about our own lives and at least planted a seed of interest in finding our own myth and drive which Campbell talks about quite extensively. As that old quote goes on about how “the unexamined life is not worth living”, this class put us a step in the right direction. This format encouraged the students to actually interact with the work and apply or compare it to their own lives.” Stan, IUP

“I like how you can take complete control of a classroom and are able to relate with all of us as individuals not just students. Seems like there is not a subject or topic you could not discuss and make it interesting or funny. It was good to see you have a lot of discipline in your class, don’t get me wrong I would love to see you handout A’s but the fact that we have to work for them and that I’ll know I earned it is much more beneficial to me in the long run than just going through the motions,” Walter, IUP

RESEARCH WRITING (Undergrad)

“Is my freshman year in college really over? Did I really make it through your research class without crying? Marlen, you have helped me in more ways than one, and I truly mean it when I say you have been the most influential and realest teacher/professor I have ever had. Out of all of my classes in both my first semester, and this present semester, I have ALWAYS made your class my top priority. Even when it came to studying for other classes, if I knew I had to work on my paper, I would drop everything to do so. What were the reasons for this? For starters, I really respect you, and I wanted to prove that I take this class seriously and put 100% into all of the work I’ve done, and secondly, because I actually enjoy writing, and wanted to make sure I was putting my best foot forward. Without [this class] I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. You have showed me so much, and more importantly, you have shown me things that I will actually use in my future. You have given me confidence as a writer as well as tools I can use in my everyday life. Marlen, you are an excellent professor, and an even better human being. You are so credible in everything you do, and we all respect that. I’ll miss you in my future endeavors, but just remember when I’m writing a research paper, I’ll have you in mind.” Kelly, UT

“Mr. Harrison, Hi. I was your student in IUP, and I took your research writing class. Maybe 2 years ago? It has been a long time. But I really want to let you know that it was really good taking your class. I was an exchange student from Taiwan, and I don’t really good in English. But you encouraged me a lot. You told me not to worry about the grammar, just try to say what I want to say. And you also said that I did really improve a lot at the end of the semester. That was just one of the nice things you taught me. My first job after graduate from college was an English teacher in the cram school. Most of my students are from age 5 to 12. Basically, I think learning a new language needs time. But maybe the education system in Taiwan makes parents impatient to see the result of their kid’s learning. Yet, I still keep telling those kids the things you told me (when their parents are not around), and I think some of them really understand it. Even though I don’t teach anymore, but I still continue writing. Thank you very much and wish you good luck.” Eartha, IUP/Taiwan

“I also think that the way you go about this kind of class, which ends up being hours and hours of work, research, revision and drafting, made it palatable in a way that was not overwhelming and seemingly impossible. They way our projects were broken down into distinct sections, all with purpose and a place in the final product, was innovative and exemplary of the way you are constantly trying to forge a better connection with your students.” Dan, IUP

“The only concern I have ever had with the class is the amount of work. That being said, I’ve found that having all these assignments has helped me immensely with my time management skills and planning for my other classes. I never thought that an English class would also encourage me to sit down and read, for example, a Microbiology book, but it has. I have learned how to really analyze my text, and absorb information and all of this is because of your class.” Megan, IUP

“If you had not pushed me as hard as you did or given me so many great opportunities, I would not have been able to accomplish as much as I have. Earlier in the year, probably around the first week of classes, I had a “pep-talk” with a member of the faculty… I asked him what all I would need to accomplish to ensure acceptance to the grad school of my choosing, and what he said made my head swim. I felt completely unprepared. Fortunately for me, I had you as a teacher. Not only did you assist me in completing well over three-quarters of what my professor suggested, but you also helped me obtain things that he said were extra and looked outstanding for my future applications. To find this out was incredibly relieving. I truly have you to thank for all of this.” Andrew, IUP

FRESHMAN COMP/COLLEGE WRITING (Undergrad)

“I expected freshman English to be a class teaching me everything I already knew. Opposing my previous belief, this out-shined and surpassed any English class that I have ever taken. Because I have not previously had a challenging English curriculum, I research and essentially inform myself of new and correct writing techniques. This class did this for me. I did not need to do outside work anymore to find correct procedures and formats of writing papers. Aside from academia, I learned so much from you. I cannot even put into words how I absorbed the message you portrayed. It’s as if it was sometimes subliminal messages that I picked up on. I could feel your true colors throughout every class we spent together. Strangely, I considered changing my major to English because of you. Funny, huh? I want to be as happy as you seem to be in your profession. “TO LOVE WHAT YOU DO AND FEEL THAT IT MATTERS, WHAT COULD BE MORE FUN?” Your passion and interest in helping others, not only in writing, was truly inspiring to me. I am so sad that I did not get to know you even more than this. It is sad to me that there are very few genuine teachers left like you, where you can sense such a connection. You inspire me to learn. You inspire me to travel. You inspire me to write. I cannot express how upset I am that I will not be able to experience your teaching style again. I truly feel blessed that I had you as a professor. I feel as though it is truthfully sad that others took the opportunity for granted, and did not see the distinctive quality in the course. Keep inspiring others; I’m sure that will not be too hard for you! Thank you Marlen.” Elisha, UT

“All of my friends say that they hated writing and hated taking the time to express themselves through the mundane forms of writing, but after taking this class I know what they are truly missing out on. They are missing out on a chance of a lifetime to show the world what they have to say….Having that chance to publish something even as simple as a blog, gets yourself out there to express who you truly are. I am going to tell all of my freshmen friends to take [your] class because I think that they will gain not only a sense of English and writing, but ultimately a sense of self and self awareness from all of the essays that they will complete. Going into this class I heard that [you] had given a lot of writing homework but in the end it was so worth it. Taking not only knowledge of M.L.A. style writing and knowledge of genres, but I’m taking a part of my life that had made me see who I truly am and how I express myself through writing. ” Kylie, IUP

“I learned a lot about the writing process in this class. I learned that it is okay to have a bunch of rough drafts before your polished piece. Professional writers go through the same process we do and that gives me comfort when I sit down to write a paper. Not only did I learn about how others write, but I learned about myself; about my own writing process. I found out that I work better under pressure and that is when my mind does not wander. Silence kills me. I need some sort of sound while I’m reading or writing. I cannot believe it took me this long to realize how I need my environment around me to be while I work. Another thing about the class I liked was having peer editors. That not only gave me feedback from someone my age, but also gave me the chance to read over someone else’s. It helped me see that other students have the same troubles I do in writing, and it also gave me the first hand experience at what readers look at in a piece of writing.” Amanda, IUP

“Never before this class have I ever had to challenge myself as a writer with the task of choosing a genre and shaping it the way I wanted to. It is for this reason, however, that I feel as if I have learned about myself and about writing more than I have in any other class. The design of this class is to get students thinking about how they can, as writers, tap into a side of them that rarely comes out in writing; in other words, this class is designed to make an individual voice come out in every student. Within this voice, for me, I have started to use my true feelings, emotions, and senses to develop my writing into something that is truly an original piece. How have I grown or what have I learned about myself through this course? The answer to that question, unfortunately, is not very apparent. I cannot look into a mirror and see a different shaped head or different color eyes. The way that I have changed, in fact, is much more complex. It is hard to explain, but what I can say is that I now know of a place within me that blocks out all distractions and cares about nothing other than my feelings on a topic. Before, I never wrote about how I felt, or incorporated how I felt into a paper. Now, though, this is one of my must-dos because as I said earlier, in order to write well, I have to feel towards the subject.” Patrick, IUP

Warriors and Witches: Understanding Archetypes and the Monomyth for Therapeutic Purposes

“Dr. Harrison’s workshop on Archetypes and Monomyths was an interesting topic to discuss, but what made it even more incredible was it required us students to look inside ourselves and reflect on not only who we are, but where we are in our journey. I loved this presentation, it took a concepts that not only everyone could understand, but that we could easily find examples in everyday media or stories as old as Shakespeare. What made the subject matter powerful was that you then could take the concepts past the surface and relate them to yourself in a personal way. To discover your character on your journey, that’s what made it great.” Patrick, UT

“Oh my goodness what a delightful class today was! I first want to start off by saying thank you to both Susan and Marlen for such a wonderful and eye opening workshop today. Within the class time I feel like I really received so many eye-opening and interesting discoveries that I never knew about until today. I think what initially was shocking to me was the monomyth; realizing the mind-boggling commonalities after the readings, video clips, and in class discussions of some of the world’s most famous movies, fairy/folk tales, and love stories and them all tying together through a sequences of events. In regards to feedback, I wouldn’t change one single thing about this workshop. It was beautiful in every aspect: to see others open up, myself personally have an inner realization of my own being, and the honesty from Marlen from the get go. Marlen, thank you so much for caring so deeply about archetypes, the monomyth, and for appreciating how important and vital dance is to the progression of life. This workshop was so honest and gives me chills thinking about the energy that came from today; Very refreshing and gratifying to have been able to be apart of this experience. I look forward to continuing creating my piece that focuses on my innermost insecurities, and throughout the piece realizing my true and real beauty on both the inside and out.” Audra, UT