Mark Holden, Western's favourite professor (if the popular website Rate My Professors is any indication) has left the building. Holden won't be returning for the 2016-17 academic year as he's found a position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I’m upset to be honest, he’s one of my favourite professors," said Valeria Tarasova, a fourth-year psychology student. "So it sucks that he won’t be here anymore to teach other students and that I won’t get another opportunity with him either."
Holden taught at Western in the psychology department for three years on a contract basis and began as a postdoctoral fellow. Throughout his time at Western he taught 2115B introduction to sensation and perception, 2135A cognitive psychology, 3130B psychology of thinking and the popular first-year course psychology 1000.
"Everything I know about his performance when he taught courses for us is that he was excellent," said Scott MacDougall-Shackleton, professor and chair of the department of psychology.
Holden is Western's highest rated professor on Rate my Professors, with a 5.0 overall quality score, as The Gazette reported last year. Most comments on the page are positive statements about him, stating students are eager to attend his lectures, he explains concepts clearly, is a fair marker, is helpful and overall a wonderful professor.
Here's one student's comment from Rate My Professors: "Holden was one of the only professors that actually made me want to come out to class and his lectures are very clear. He is the best prof I've had at Western and he even takes feedback on how to get better."
But Holden doesn't just fare well on Rate My Professors. His course evaluations demonstrate his high quality teaching. On his sections 2014-15 psychology 1000 course evaluation he received a median of seven (the highest possible score) on every single question — from 366 students. The questions include if the professor displays enthusiasm, is well organized, shows concern for students and explains concepts clearly grades work promptly.
MacDougall-Shackleton said the psychology department takes course evaluations seriously. All full-time faculty and limited duties faculty get an annual evaluation and the course evaluations are a part of that.
“They can have an impact in a couple of different ways. For example, if someone applies to teach a course on a contract or to make a transition from having taught on contract in the past to a full-time position, one of the factors would be certainly how they’ve done on course evaluations in the past,” MacDougall-Shackleton said.
MacDougall-Shackleton could not reveal the precise reasons behind Holden's departure due to privacy laws.
Given Holden's popularity with students, it's likely he will be missed by the students he taught.