Student Feedback: Teaching and Mentoring

This page contains a sample of student feedback received during my teaching and mentoring activities to date.

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Student comments for upper-level courses taught at Brown

Crafting Citizens: Democratic Theory and Civic Education (POLS 1823S, as instructor)

Matt was an incredible instructor. He cared about each one of us, answered even our most outlandish questions and really put effort into understanding our trajectories, hopes, and fears. After this class I am glad to consider Matt both an instructor and a mentor.

Matt’s feedback was definitely the best I’ve ever gotten on a paper.

Matt was flexible with how he would lead class depending on how much we understood or needed help with readings, but I think almost always got to as much material as he intended.

Matt is very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject and he enjoys teaching—which showed in this class.

Matt gave us incredible insight into our writing strengths and weaknesses. His critiques were fantastic and very easy to work with. Never have I had an instructor who cared so much about his students. I am so glad I took this class.

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Student comments for TA service at Brown

Introduction to Political Thought (POLS 0110, as TA)

Matthew Lyddon was a wonderful TA and was not only extremely enthusiastic but helped me grasp concepts that were perhaps a little unclear after the lectures. The questions he raised in section were very stimulating.

Discussion section boards online encouraged people to come in prepared and were, in general, much more effective than study questions. A+ idea, Matt!

Matt’s incredible devotion to written evaluations/critiques for papers was the most beneficial aspect of the course—he truly cared about improving students’ writing skills, which is sometimes hard to find in other classes of this nature.

Matt is one of the best TAs I’ve ever had. His commitment to teaching is impressive and I really appreciated that his goal was to help all of us better read and understand texts and write papers. His sections were always extremely well prepared and I learned a lot. Despite having written many papers for college thus far, I still found all of his comments to be helpful in improving my papers.

I always left Matt’s section with a better understanding of the text, either from having my questions answered by Matt and by other students, or by thinking about questions that Matt had asked and hearing the opinions of other students in the discussion.

Prosperity: the Ethics and Economics of Wealth Creation (POLS 1150, as TA)

Matt did an excellent job of moderating the discussion sections, allowing for the students to have the bulk of the time to discuss our thoughts and understanding of the material. He was very adapt at jumping in with a point of clarification when needed to keep the discussion factually correct, and also at keeping the discussion on topic, both much appreciated and often difficult skills for a T.A. to demonstrate.”

Matt was the best TA I’ve had in my time at Brown. Section was usually more useful than lecture and, honestly, because he was so prepared for explaining complex concepts. I would have been completely lost in this class if it were not for Matt. I hope Matt goes on to continue teaching because he would make a fantastic professor. I give my highest possible evaluation to Matt as a TA.

I really liked the ease with which Matt explained some of the more difficult concepts of the course. He was also really good at encouraging section participation and starting discussion. This is the class where I saw some of the best section discussions during my time at Brown.

Matt made himself available to discuss not only class material, but also larger concepts of political theory in order to ensure that the information made sense in the context of the discipline, which was extremely valuable to me. He also took the time to provide the most in depth critique my papers that I have received at Brown, for which I am very grateful as it’s helped me identify areas where I may improve my writing.

Matt’s feedback system for the essay assignments was excellent; he commented on both content and form, which helped me improve my critical writing in both areas. His grading policy was very fair and he was clear about his expectations.

Matt is going to be an amazing college teacher. He actually cared about section and wasn’t just leading it because he had to (as many grad students in my experience seem to do). He was quirky, humorous, and an excellent moderator. He went out of his way to make sure students felt comfortable, understood assignments, and was always available to meet. I can’t sing his praises enough.

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Pre-College* Summer Teaching Feedback Comments:

*high school rising sophomores to rising seniors

Brown Leadership Institute student comments

Matt was brilliant, engaging, and funny. He never let the class drag, but kept the topics serious and genuine even while having some fun. I have no complaints; he was the best teacher I’ve ever had.

On the first day, we had a ‘values auction.’ That part of the course was a highlight for me. I also loved the group seminars we had, which helped me gather perspectives of different minds from all over the world and as a result, enhance mine too. This opened my mind towards different ideas as I became aware of the different ways to look on a particular topic. Additionally, the map Matt would make on the board cleared my doubts and made me dig deeper into the topic of ethics and relating it to leadership. There was nothing in this course that I didn’t like.

Matt was approachable for any and all questions and inspired me to think in ways I never had before.

Matt was kind, and respectful of each student, and was clearly passionate about what he was teaching. He supported each student and truly cared about each of us. Matt made class fun, but also a great learning environment. Poli Sci was never something of interest to me, but now I am considering pursuing it in college. I feel with the tools Matt gave me I can return to my community a more informed and ethical leader.

Yale Young Global Scholars student comments

Led my Marshall Brief group through the best of times and the worst of times. Absolutely the staff member I bonded with the most and the only staff member I am sure I will keep in touch with.

Amazing Marshall Brief leader. Very friendly, supportive and willing to talk to members individually about other subjects too.

Excellent seminar: my favorite. It was fun and educational and I felt like explaining his lecture to people after it ended. (Comment for: The Role of Liberalism in American Political Thought).

This was my favorite seminar! Matt was a great teacher, and he made the seminar very entertaining. I got a lot out of this lesson. (Comment for: Understanding the Social Contract Tradition).

Matt encouraged us to think critically (especially during presentations).

Matt’s seminars were great. He seemed extremely knowledgeable and was great at facilitating discussion.

Easily my favorite seminar. Matt Lyddon showed us the evolution of liberalism in American political thought, and I left the class better understanding why this evolution is important in today’s political climate. (Comment for: The Role of Liberalism in American Political Thought).

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Honors Thesis Advising – Student Endorsement (via LinkedIn)

Kevin P. Carty ’15, A.B. Honors in Political Science
‘Out of the State and Into the Street: The Role of Public Political Action in Realizing Liberal Democracy’
Departmental Prize for Best Thesis in Political Theory

When I first met Matt, I was a 19-year-old freshman, still searching for my academic niche within a new, intimidating university. When I graduated, I was a 22-year-old senior with a passion for political theory and an honors thesis under my belt. That change has everything to do with Matt Lyddon, a teacher and mentor I have had the great privilege to work with at Brown.

First of all, he is a strong, capable classroom teacher. Matt is charismatic, engaging, and good at explaining complex material. Not only do I know this from my own experience – he was a teaching assistant during my freshman year – but I know it from the testimonies of the (literally) countless students to whom I have recommended Matt. Without fail, after I told them to take his class or choose his section, I asked them how it was going and they raved about him. Recently, a young political theory student informed me that she wished Matt was staying at Brown longer so that they could work together further.

Secondly, and of equal importance, Matt is an amazing teacher outside of the classroom. At the end of my junior year, he volunteered to serve as a second reader for the honors thesis I would be writing during my senior year. As I started work, it soon became clear that my primary advisor was not going to be as available as I needed to support the project. In response, Matt assumed the role of primary advisor. In so doing, he took on two separate, but equally important roles.

On one level, he was my academic advisor. He highlighted important examples and critiques, zeroed in on central concepts, and contrasted various thinkers in ways that were both deepening and illuminating. I learned a lot of political theory in my time at Brown, taught by many excellent professors, but Matt made me improve my understanding in important, fundamental ways that illustrate his ability to translate his own knowledge into comprehensible and useful teaching. On another level, Matt was also a mentor. He understood that I needed more than intellectual firepower to complete my thesis. So, he cared for my work, pushed me in new directions, and urged me to move faster to meet my deadlines. When my drafts needed it, he gave me critique; after a week of intense writing, he gave me validation and encouragement. He highlighted the flaws in my argument while emphasizing the moments when I broke new ground. In sum, Matt struck the perfect balance between hard-charging advisor and encouraging mentor. He was the best advisor I could have possibly asked for, and I do not believe I could have finished my thesis, let alone receive the award for the best political theory thesis in the department, without his help.

I simply cannot recommend Matt Lyddon highly enough. He made all the difference for me during my time at Brown, and I know that he will carry those skills and experiences with him wherever he goes next, happy to teach, advise, train, and mentor the next generation of students.

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Student Teaching and Mentoring Endorsements (via LinkedIn)

Adam Katz, Brown ’14, Classics and Political Science

Matt is, without question, the most passionate, diligent, competent, and friendly TA I was ever fortunate to have in my four years at Brown. Matt managed the ever-elusive skill of not only commanding a firm and thoughtful grasp on the material, but also conveying his deep sense of excitement for the prospect of others attaining the same understanding. The more I think about it, the more I am indebted to Matt for a huge portion of my own academic development.

When I met Matt in a Political Science/Economics crossover course, I was a Classics major with a fleeting interest in Political Science. Matt’s enthusiasm and aptitude as an instructor made me reevaluate my own academic goals, and with much encouragement from Matt I added Political Science as a second concentration, and for my Junior and Senior years took almost exclusively Political Science courses.

Long after the course ended, I continued to meet Matt for coffee to discuss classes, politics, and any number of non-academic topics, and I now consider Matt not only an adept mentor, but also a dear friend. In my Senior year I worked as a TA in the Classics department and really came to see how difficult it is to balance so many goals, delineation of the material, developing a rapport with students, and so on, but when one sees Matt in the classroom, it would seem the easiest task in the world. Any school or student would be lucky to have Matt.

Samuel Levison, Brown ’14, History

Matthew was undoubtedly the most passionate TA I encountered in my time at Brown and any student would be incredibly lucky to have him as a teacher. For each section, he was not only ready to answer any questions we might have had about the material, but also keen on challenging us to expand how we thought about political theory and our own beliefs. Moreover, I found his feedback meaningful even on my most successful papers–he would always push me to improve without ever resorting to quibbling or tedious criticism. Even after I chose a course of study outside of political science, Matt remained in touch to hear what I was up to and offer his advice.

Michaela Campbell, Brown ’14, Political Science.

Few educators possess the combination of passion, expertise, and the ability to connect with students that Matt has. His enthusiasm for his subject is contagious, and he is genuinely interested in every student’s thoughts and ideas. He is able to meet students at their level, inspiring them to learn more, and to enjoy doing it! In addition, his teaching experience and pedagogical excellence give him the skills to help students improve quantitatively in their understanding of the subject matter. His color-coded system for comments on papers is legendary, and provides easily understandable feedback that constantly encourages students to be better while still making them feel good about what they have accomplished so far. Educators like Matt are few and far between, and he would be an incredible addition to any institution.

Kimberley Charles, Brown ’16, Political Science.

I was one of four students in Matt’s Civic Education and Democratic Theory seminar during Fall 2014. A four student class can be a daunting amount of students to teach, especially because all of us came from varying academic backgrounds and experiences. Nonetheless, Matt did an amazing job of including our interests and diversity in ways that benefitted each student and challenged us to think critically about our beliefs. As a student with little background in political theory, Matt broke down difficult concepts so that each student had a strong command of the literature. Finally, as a first-generation college student, I learned so much from Matt because of our similar experiences in education. He allowed me to ask the “silly” questions about pursuing further graduate degrees which has given me great insight into planning my future. I look up to Matt as a mentor and friend, and would highly recommend him for future positions.

Colin Mark, Yale Young Global Scholars 2012

I had the privilege of being mentored by Matthew Lyddon as a student in Yale’s intensive Ivy Scholars program. Matthew encouraged me and my peers to hold ourselves to standards we did not know we could meet, and Matthew provided us with both the positive reinforcement and the practical guidance we needed to meet those standards. Matthew took a personal interest in each of us and took time to develop relationships with us. He was there with a red pen to hold us accountable for flaws in our thinking and with a box of Insomnia Cookies to reward us for our hard work. Matthew’s investment in my success inspired me to continue to produce my best work despite my suffering from a then undiagnosed case of mononucleosis throughout the entire program.

Matthew’s attention to his students was instrumental in our achieving special recognition from Yale Ivy Scholars. One of the two teams under Matthew’s supervision was presented with the award for best policy proposal, and I was one of two of Matthew’s ten students who received highest individual honors for their work in the program – an honor granted to five of the seventy total students.

When I completed Yale Ivy Scholars, Matthew gave me the best advice I have ever received: “Do not feel guilty for any opportunity you are given to succeed… but be prepared to pay it forward.” I attribute my continued commitment to making a positive impact on the world as a product of this advice.

Matthew has continued to serve as a friend and mentor, first by helping me through a long and grueling process writing personal essays for my college application process. Without Matthew’s continued attention, I know I would not be writing this recommendation from a desk at Harvard, and I am eternally grateful for Matthew’s continued mentorship and friendship.

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