Student Evaluations

iStock by Getty Images: Ekaterina Pushina

Student evaluations are a part of every faculty member’s life. Some consider them to be a positive part of the academic life and others dismiss them as a meaningless exercise (or even worse, as a detriment to good teaching).

You might as well know that I come down on the side of student evaluations being a necessary and worthwhile component of teaching at the college and university level. I also received — and I believe, earned — great student evaluations over the 19 years that I taught undergraduate and graduate students. This wasn’t a fluke (and I’m clear that I am writing this from all kinds of privilege and I can compare myself to other people who had the same privilege or even more privilege than I did and still make the following statements).

Here are my top ten tips for earning and receiving high evaluations from students:

One final note about teaching evaluations — after you have read your evaluations for the quarter/semester/term — get rid of the ones that are mean-spirited and unnecessarily personal. Sadly, it only takes one reading of those to get them logged in our heads. I know this from personal experience.

I could have 45 students who thought the course was outstanding and experienced my teaching as caring and excellent — and the three students’ comments about why I should never be in front of a classroom again or who commented in a way that was intended to be hurtful (and was) were the comments I remembered. Over the many years I’ve taught (and I mean MANY), I have finally gotten much less sensitive to such comments and can even laugh them off.

For example, maybe a year or so ago, someone who was in one of my workshops, hosted by his academic unit, wrote a scathing evaluation. I don’t remember the specifics but when I read it, my immediate thought was “What an ass” and then I thought, “What kind of a supervisor is this person?” and “What must their lives be like at work.” It was clear that his assessment of me and my workshop was written with a practiced “hand” in expressing unwarranted, hurtful comments and I’m quite sure, the people he worked around were the recipients of these kinds of comments constantly. But my point is this, he didn’t hurt my feelings or give me any thought about needing to improve. Nothing would have changed his thoughts about my teaching (or me). I deleted his “evaluation” and I knew from experience that his comments were about him and not about me.

Early in my years as a professor, I didn’t yet have the perspective or experience to know that mean-spirited and scathing comments were never about me, but were about the students writing them. I hope you can learn that lesson faster than I did and decide what you want to pay attention to and what you want to ignore. Read the positive comments and keep moving more and more toward those. Build on your strengths.

To access a free resource — my gift to you — I highly recommend If You Do Nothing Else This Semester. With the strategies presented here, you will get the strategies you need not only to have a successful semester, but a successful year.

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Meggin McIntosh, “The PhD of Productivity®”, invests time & energy with people who seek ways to be overjoyed instead of overwhelmed. https://meggin.com

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Meggin McIntosh

Meggin McIntosh, “The PhD of Productivity®”, invests time & energy with people who seek ways to be overjoyed instead of overwhelmed. https://meggin.com