Ever since we switched to this system, our response rate is about 25%, pretty much all the responses are completely negative or overwhelmingly positive (with a ratio of about 2:1 in favor of the negative). Here are my greatest hits just in time for the holidays:
- She was rude (because I told the students when there was a technology problem with the class that they needed to accept that tech problems happen and just do what I told them to do in the meantime until things were fixed).
- She took too much material from the teacher's manual. Yes, a student got hold of the instructor's manual for the class, and, because I provided the ancillaries in addition to my own materials, I "didn't care enough" about the subject.
- She didn't participate in our class discussions. I always let them participate first so they don't think I'm giving the "right" answer to them when I chime in. Then after they are through, I go back in within a week, answer their questions, correct any misconceptions they have about the readings, and offer additional thoughts and questions of my own. I tell them when I've done this and remind them they need to go back to the unit to re-read. I even ask them to respond and continue the conversation. Mostly I get crickets.
- The project was too hard. One student was very "helpful" by telling me about how her other English teacher let them put together a playlist of modern songs that best demonstrate the spirit of the work of a particular poet and then write a paragraph about why. Yes, what a truly academic assignment that required a great deal of research and actually met about 1/10 of the department's word length requirement for the course project.
- She has a double standard because she was late one time with sending our grades but never lets us turn in anything late. Everyone in my classes gets one emergency. All they have to do is ask for it and they get an extension. I had a power outage one night. They got their grades 20 minutes after office hour was over because that's when the power came back on. Some actually had them beforehand, which was the only reason others were expecting them that night. I still don't understand this whole "double standard" argument students make. It's as if they think being the professor and being the student are equal statuses.
- She gives too much work. One student wrote this in every single slot available no matter what the question was.
When I first started teaching, I actually looked forward to student evaluations in a way because I would get good feedback from many students and could use it to refine the course for the next term. Sure, I'd get "that class" every once in awhile, but for the most part I actually did find out what I did well and how I could improve. Now the student evaluation has become the place to nail the proffie to the cross. I'm lucky if I get two or three who actually tell me I did anything well, and I've hit the jackpot if I get one piece of constructive criticism from someone who didn't like something.
The bottom line? They sign up for an accelerated class and then complain it's too much work after I've already told them it's like taking two classes. They sign up for online classes and then complain it's too hard because they have to read so much and actually interact with the proffie and other students just as they would in a campus class. They take a course labeled advanced writing and then complain when they have to write. They take a class where I'm required to give a group project (and tell them up front) and then complain that working with others is too hard.
We are looking at a complete redo of student evaluations. Our state requires that we offer them, so dumping them is not an option. I would love to see something that actually provided me with useful data and gave me hope for our profession. But in the meantime, I have already opened my present and gotten a lump of coal from the 25% of my snowflakes who bothered to fill out the form. Thanks to the few who actually recognized I was available every time I said I would be, answered all their questions, provided them with good extra materials, never let an email sit for more than 24 hours, and provided encouragement when they were having difficulty. They are the reason I'll keep trying.