Friday, May 30, 2008

The dreaded student evaluation

This week I have been averaging the numbers to figure out final grades for my class. Overall, I felt really good about this semester. It was my first time teaching this particular class and despite that, I think it went pretty well. I have been getting a lot of emails from students telling me that they really enjoyed the class.

Yesterday, after I submitted my final grades I asked to read my course evaluations. This is kind of unusual for me because I never have the nerves to read the evaluation immediately after a course has finished. But I decided to just do it.

As I read them I flip through each one my heart pounding. I don't know why it makes me so nervous! It's just that I know that these students really have the capacity to damage my ego. It is also that I know that these kids don't always have the grace or consideration to be kind and constructive in their criticism. So anyhow, I had some really great ones. "Outstanding Professor" "Really knowledgeable" "I would recommend this Professor to anyone who wants to take art history/architecture" and then there were some good but simple "Great class." I also really enjoyed this one, "It was boring at times, but I learned a lot more than I expected." And then there is always that one, perhaps disgruntled student, who is just plain cruel.

Every once in a while there is an evaluation from a student who for whatever reason did not enjoy the class and had a really bad experience. In this case the student called me the "worst teacher I ever had at Random University." Ouch. That really hurts. Yes, it did hurt. But looking at the evaluation more carefully there are things that I think quickly discredit this student's opinion. How many hours a week did you study for this class? Zero he/she writes in. Overall, how demanding was the class? Not demanding enough (this was the only student who checked this box). And how much of the course material do you think you learned? Most.

Huh. This is a bit confusing to me. You don't study for the class, meaning you don't do the reading assignments, written assignments, etc. And yet the class was not demanding enough? And you learned the material? How is that possible? Well, I have to respond to this anonymous student: I think that you may be the worst student that I've ever had at Random University.

OK. I'm officially over it. Instead, I will bask in the praises from students who learned something new in my class, who appreciated the material, and realize that knowledge is not something that is just given to you like a perfectly gift-wrapped little present. Rather, it takes effort and care from all parties involved. Onward and upward to the next one.


Stephanie said...

Bravo! Well said.

myrrh said...

Steph, my sentiments exactly.

I am getting my first round of evals back this term... if the term ever ends. We'll see how that goes. And with 100+ students, there is no way that I interested all of them. Anyway, I'll let you know how it all turns out.