Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

It’s Evaluation Time

with 2 comments

by Nemo

As some of us anxiously await our next batch of course evaluations (and worry about what influence they might have on our future career prospects), Tenured Radical offers up some sensible advice. I’m often impressed by the psychological havoc evaluations can produce, so I thought that this observation was especially on the money:

One curious phenomenon is that practically everybody I know can get 99% great to good teaching evaluations, and the one nasty evaluation can have a particularly devastating effect.  Regardless of how incoherent it is, or how wrong, an anonymous student cutting you off at the knees about a course that you poured yourself into can feel like a stab in the back. 

The post goes on to make the point that for all their absurdity, there is often much to learn from student evaluations. While in my grimmer moments I worry that evaluations function as a sort of “consumer satisfaction report,” which contribute to higher education’s decline into a high-class shopping experience, I agree that they can provide valuable insights into one’s teaching. Now if only more students would comment on our actual classes rather than our places on a “hotness” scale.


Written by Julian Nemeth

January 12, 2011 at 11:46

2 Responses

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  1. There’s nothing worse than being ranked on a “hotness” scale, except not being ranked because you weren’t deemed hot enough to qualify.


    January 12, 2011 at 11:49

  2. I took away something different from TR’s advice: I printed my electronically-submitted evaluations and handed them to a colleague for his advice. I wanted his opinion on the threads of commonality. …As for the outlier comments, the old scientist in me makes it easier to dismiss comments that “blow the curve.” I have to see 2 or 3 of anything to start thinking pattern. – TL

    Tim Lacy

    January 14, 2011 at 15:42

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