William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Friday, 15, January, 2010

Student Evaluations

Filed under: Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 16:31

As a person who really does not like confrontation in his personal life, and who wants to be liked (who doesn’t) I really dislike getting evaluations from students on my courses.  This is the time of year for it, as Thoryke and Female Science Prof have mentioned.

Intellectually, of course, I really care about the means.  Humans sort themselves into bell curves whether they will or no, and the mean is important.  As long as the means are where they should be, I’m pretty happy.  I’ve learned to ignore the minutae of evaluations.  That was brought home when one student wrote that I didn’t like teaching, I was only “In it for the money…”  I’ll let all the profs stop laughing at that one.  I know where that comment came from, it was engendered because I pointed out to the class how much they were spending per hour, and they might want to not waste that money.

A commentator at FSP had a good point, and I have no idea how to get the data, but it would be helpful.  In Dan’s own words:

I’m really interested in negative reviews from good students, mildly interested in positive reviews from bad students, possibly interested in positive reviews from good students, and definitely not interested in negative reviews from bad students.

Yes. Unfortunately, the results are anonymous. Frankly, I think that’s kind of chickenshit. If you don’t have the courage to mention something to my face, I really tend to discount it. I’m a civilized man, and welcome helpful feedback. That’s the most valuable information, and I really appreciate it when someone who gets it, who understands what I’m trying to get across tells me how to do it better.

There is a known correlation between how well one does on the course and how satisfied one is with it. Particularly if the course is stinking hard–like my physiology course. The folks who did well in that one really earned it. Too light winning makes the prize light, as Prospero pointed out, and that still holds true.



  1. Some schools are considering switching to electronic course evals, in order to save money on printing and scanning the paper forms. Severing the link to student handwriting would make assessing the quality of the evals even more difficult.

    Comment by rethoryke — Friday, 15, January, 2010 @ 16:59 | Reply

  2. Seems like a similar problem to extracting information from double-blind review comments. When a paper of mine has received a negative review with lots of detail, it’s usually interesting and valuable. A negative review with nothing more than (low) numeric scores and the fragment “Not acceptable” — not so much. Do your student reviews include written comments, or are they just Likert scales?

    Comment by bluntobject — Friday, 15, January, 2010 @ 17:02 | Reply

    • There are written comments. But they are electronic. So they are on line, summarized, and individually. Therefore the grades could be matched up, but then they would not be anonymous. The one I liked best was “Fire this loser.”

      Comment by williamthecoroner — Friday, 15, January, 2010 @ 17:18

  3. Ah yes… anonymous feedback. As far as I’m concerned that = useless…

    Comment by Old NFO — Friday, 15, January, 2010 @ 18:07 | Reply

  4. We are going to the electronic feedback. Whoopee. I hate the evaluations. Why do we allow people with no education evaluate those of us with one? How do they know if they learned anything. I could say that Thomas Jefferson was the anti-Christ and they wouldn’t know if it is true or not. We can literally tell students the wrong information and why not the textbook does and no one would know especially if we get good evaluations.

    I think it is ridiculous but so much in academia is chickenshit. I am disappointed with teaching–twenty years on.

    Comment by Jaye — Sunday, 17, January, 2010 @ 04:13 | Reply

  5. Years ago when I taught at the university, I solicited comments at the end of the semester. My favorite contained some constructive criticism, which I was mulling over until I read this: I really appreciated it the day you didn’t wear a bra. Thanks!

    Well, the joke’s on you, buddy, I thought, because I wore a bra every single day to class.

    Then I had a more disturbing thought–what was I wearing that made him think I wasn’t wearing a bra? Shudder. The only thing I could figure is that I had this dress that laced up the front which you couldn’t see through, because if you had, you would have seen my bra. But the imagination of a 20-year-old boy is probably not limited by reality, I suppose.

    Comment by Teresa — Sunday, 24, January, 2010 @ 14:15 | Reply

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