A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Article on Student Evaluations

Just a quick post today (as I’m still in post-Spring-Break catch-up mode) to share this article I found on Zite. [New iPad-owners, take note: Zite is the best!]

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how student evaluations should or shouldn’t be used to judge what we’re doing correctly or incorrectly.  There was one semester, a while ago, when I gave out my own at the end of class, sort of like a blogger did mid-semester recently (I don’t remember who you are right now, though, sorry!).  I asked questions about the specifics of the student’s experience.  Did he/she feel challenged?  Did the reading help?  Did he/she do the reading at all, and if so how often?  (Answers were overwhelmingly no, and never).  Did the student feel that attending class was critical in success?  Did the student feel that the instructor kept class informative and engaging, regardless of whether the material itself was of the utmost interest to the student?

I saw an email recently that the Student Evaluation measures have changed.  I know that students check Rate My Professor.  But I have thought this many times: they complain all the time, about dumb stuff!  How seriously, really, should we be taking their feedback?  There are a few students out there who I believe have the right thing in mind.  But the goal is to learn, not be entertained.  To be challenged, not to be granted a fuss-free A.  I have so few students who I feel really have those goals in mind when they are in the classroom and engaged in my assignments.  I don’t trust them to evaluate me.  The once-per-semester observation my department does matters more, I know.  These always go well, and are marked by specifics of the lessons I’ve created.  How much time I spend lecturing versus doing practice, how engaging my materials are, how clearly I explain things, how I respond to student questions and engage the class in discussion… etc.  These things matter, I know.
Yet I find myself feeling enormously chuffed by the usually very positive reviews I get from student evaluations, commenting on ridiculous things like my “cute personality” and “fun class.”  And totally bummed out by the occasional negative comment!  Is this just the needy child in me, wanting to be well-liked?

Ugh, anyway.  Thought it was a good read and might spurn an interesting discussion.  Hope you all had a restful and rejuvenating break!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share Post

1 comment to Article on Student Evaluations

  • I have a confession–I have yet to read any student evaluations from teaching here. It’s not that I don’t care; I do care quite a bit. In fact, I worry that I care too much and will go through the same thought process you describe above. My supervisor reads them and has told me they are overwhelmingly good. I will read the evaluations from one year ago at the end of this semester. (This is assuming they are still available.) This is enough distance to not take them personally, and also enough distance to not immediately know (based on writing style!) who wrote what comments. I know what I need to improve and I know my strengths; these evaluations rarely tell me anything I don’t already know.

    I have been doing programming that has relied on student evals for a decade and I have found that the feedback is overwhelmingly NOT useful. It’s what you describe above–complaints about silly things that don’t have to do with class satisfaction, wanting to change things that I just can’t change (e.g., department-required elements or just having work to do in general), or wanting to add things that I just can’t add (e.g., a donut party every Thursday). I would love to stroke my own ego with the great ones, but in order to sincerely improve my teaching I need to remove my feelings from the sometimes overly harsh evaluations. Hence why I am choosing to read them a year out.