Evaluations, student

  • Mary E. Hunt


The plain brown envelopes and number 2 pencils with ample erasers come out at the end of each semester so that students can provide their feedback to professors. It is only fair, in that professors grade them as well. Of course, this practice can play into a certain consumer attitude among students, and if negatively evaluated a professor can feel undermined. However, if you are serious about improving your teaching, you will read all evaluations with care, and take them with a grain of salt. Promotion and tenure committees read them, so it is a good idea to take them seriously and invite students to be candid. While there are often one or two who will vent, the vast majority of students, especially in a well-formulated course, will wax poetic about how much they learned, how accessible you were, how much you helped them, and how they appreciated your efforts. What is problematic about the whole procedure is that the results are often so cut and dried, so starkly numerical that it is hard to communicate nuance (for instance, that the student who hated you also failed the course because he never came to class). In addition, there is no way to detect, or account for, student expectations of professional behavior based on gender, sexual orientation, or racial stereotypes, which can affect how they perceive your performance.

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© Mary E. Hunt 2004

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  • Mary E. Hunt

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