How to handle Student Evaluations

Happy New Year! As we all slowly make our way back from the holiday coma, I thought I‘d briefly speak about student evaluations, which I am assuming most of us receive at the end of each semester. There are varying schools of thought that speak to the necessity of these evaluations. I am staying out of this debate.

It‘s hard to separate yourself from these evaluations much – at least that‘s the case for me as an ECR. After all, if you care about how you teach and you put effort in it, then it is a personal thing – to a degree. But it should not be something we measure our entire self-worth by. During my graduate student days our Center for Teaching and Learning held a session on how to handle these evaluations. 

In a neat tree branch model, you ought to separate the comments into useful/useless and then subsequently into positive/negative

  1. Useful positive, i.e., “Sharing the slides before class aided my learning.”
  2. Useful negative, i.e., “The professor should have taken more time to review the readings that were assigned.”
  3. Useless positive, i.e., “The professor’s taste in music is impeccable.”
  4. Useless negative, i.e., “The professor’s car is a piece of garbage.”

Credit: Saundra Latham (2023)

This model allows me to categorize what I find helpful in improving as an educator vs. what I can discard. I don’t think any of us care about our students’ opinions about our cars. But if a learning tool worked or did not work, that then can impact the way I structure a similar class next time. 

Hoping that others will find it useful! If you do, please help with my favorite comment I received this semester: “I wish the professor had office hours in a different office.”