One of my colleagues refuses to read her evaluations. She has tenure and no longer needs to respond to them like the rest of us who have to, every few years, when we're up for promotion, pull out the dreaded comments and respond to them in whatever form of torture the Rank & Tenure people have devised. This colleague asks the rest of us to scan her evaluations and let her know if there are any problems she needs to be aware of. I hate reading her evaluations because, by and large, no one complains. She has no reason NOT to read her evaluations.
Another of my colleagues cries. I know she does because she has admitted as much, and her pinched mouth and puffy eyes tell me she's gone into a funk the likes of which would make George Clinton proud, and stays moody for days on end, muttering to herself about student evaluations. When someone says something complimentary, she responds with, "Well, 27% of my class would disagree with you about that..." I know she takes the comments to heart because every quarter, she has them open as she attempts to (1) interpret what they mean; (2) change assignments to incorporate feedback she receives. She asks the rest of us for feedback on how to tweak assignments or change up the order of major projects, all because one student claimed she felt overwhelmed by the order in which essays were due.
The rest of my colleagues fall between the spectrum of those who ignore and those who anxiously await and obsess about their students' feedback.
My evals are rarely helpful enough to change anything. When I first started teaching, I used to obsess about the comments that were just plain mean and unnecessary. Now I don't care. I just puzzle it out for a few minutes, then leave it alone. The ones with profanity make me laugh, and the clearly insane ones (like the student who claimed she heard the voice of God every time the boy sitting behind her said something), well, those are just entertaining. The flattering ones boost my ego and tell me I'm not a lost cause...
...But they're rarely helpful to me: One section will love me, the other will hate me. Four people will claim there are too many presentations because they hated that about the class, and four others will claim there were not enough presentations because they really loved that portion of the class. Someone will always claim there was too much reading assigned (no shit, it's a four-credit READING class), and someone else will complain about how I was rude and unhelpful because I wouldn't let them get away with plagiarism. Several will glow about the fact that they loved whatever text we read that they'd already fallen in love with before taking the class and that's why they took the class, and a few will grumble that the texts were long and boring... and yet, nothing will change in my classes as a result. I can't change the texts; they're assigned to that period in literature. I can't change the number of essays; they're required by WASC and our department. I can't change much else, beyond the color of the scarf I wear occasionally (which one student criticized), and I can't change the desks or the uncomfortable chairs in the classroom.
Q: So I'm curious, fellow Miserians, what do you do with evaluations?
- Are yours helpful to you? Do you really value them?
- Do you incorporate feedback into future courses?
- Do you get into a funk and obsess about comments that make you insane?
- Do you laugh it off and go get a beer (or bourbon)?
- Do you ignore them completely because you no longer have to look at them?
- In essence: what do you do, and how do they affect you?