William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Monday, 1, December, 2008

Dr. Zeus’ Evaluation and Recommendation Rules

Filed under: Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 16:10

It’s that time of year again.  Time for student evaluations and for students to ask for letters of reference.  I frankly enjoy writing letters of reference.  It’s part of my job, and one of the things that is nice about education is watching people go on to achieve their dreams.  At least, I hope they’re going to go on and achieve their dreams.

I am disturbed about some parts of the evaluation process.  Frankly, I’m not all that thrilled about anonymous evaluations, or anonymous comments in general.  While I understand the desire to vent some spleen, (and if you’ve ever had your spleen vented, you know how painful it can be) I really don’t think it’s appropriate in the graduate/professional school setting.  I know I do not do everything right the first time, and I welcome constructive feedback. 

Part of making it constructive, though, is owning your words.  Students have different learing styles.  If I know what worked better for some folks, when I get colleagues that are have similar styles I can go to a different string to my bow.  I know some students fear retaliation-anonymity never really brings out the best in people.

Be that as it may after the fold are my requestMany students ask me for letters of recommendation.  I am happy to provide them.  I ask though, that you understand what you’re getting into and I do ask for a little help from you.  This makes my task easier and helps me write the best letter of recommendation for you.


1.                  I do not want any part of anonymous letters.  If you ask me for a letter, you will get a copy.  I don’t write anything, ever, in a professional context that I would not sign my name to. 

2.                  If I feel I cannot give you a good recommendation, I will tell you to your face.

3.                  As a corollary, I do appreciate feedback on how to make my class better.  That information is useful, and I do modify my classes depending on the feedback I receive.  I do ask, though, that you do me the courtesy of doing it face-to-face.

4.                  When you ask for a letter, I appreciate a note giving me the following information:

a.       What position you are applying for

b.      What particularly are you trying to emphasize

c.       What is your résumé, particularly how well you did in my class

d.      An addressed, STAMPED envelope.  Make sure the person to whom the letter is going has the name spelled correctly.  Make sure you get the name of the program/company/job/university correct.  I don’t know them, and this will vastly improve your chances of acceptance.



  1. thankfully mine were all due last monday….interesting as i have one who wants to go to art school and she never asked for a rec. from me or the other member of my department.

    Comment by t — Monday, 1, December, 2008 @ 18:02 | Reply

  2. Instructor evaluations in my field are not taken very seriously, given the clientel. Most are done to fulfill requirements, then pigeon holed in a file box some place.

    Recommendations for our students, whether for post secondary, employment, or military, come with only one condition. We tell our students we will happily write out a recommendation, or offer it verbally to it’s intended, but in every case they will be DEAD HONEST. We ask them to consider what that means before asking for one….

    Comment by Carteach0 — Monday, 1, December, 2008 @ 20:02 | Reply

  3. There’s no avoiding the anonymous evaluator feedback at my med school – during the first two years we often couldn’t get an exam form (or leave an exam) unless we turned in the eval, and now I can’t get my rotation grades until all my evals are done. But I prefer face-to-face feedback for important things, so I use the evaluation to give a fair assessment of a class especially remarking on things done well, and if there’s anything I feel absolutely needs to be constructively changed, I tell the professor (or course director) myself. I figure that if all the med students are going to fill an anonymous eval out, there’s going to be quite a bit of unnecessary vitriol, so I try to provide something positive whenever possible. It’s a funny system, but I’m not sure how curriculum would successfully evolve without it – most medical students seem pretty timid during their first two years.

    Comment by alexis — Thursday, 4, December, 2008 @ 22:36 | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: