On doing one’s own student evaluations

I used to do this and I will start doing it again, to start building a promotion dossier. Here are some ideas from others.

– I do mid semester surveys online. I ask some questions for my own information (“how much of the reading do you do in a typical week?”) and some questions about specific teaching strategies I’ve tried. I also ask for the most interesting thing they’ve learned. It helps me get a sense of what they’re doing, how they feel about it, and what’s sticking.

– I worked at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching as a GA. The University provided this service for all faculty and TAs for free. I spent two years doing observations and SGIDS–SGIDS were the best assessment tool because I could ask follow-up questions and students were aware of what others in the class thought. So, one or two bullies realized they were in the minority and the majority of good students could see how those one or two were ruining the class. The peer pressure effect was incredible. Students felt free to be honest with me because I wasn’t connected to the class.

– Right after midterms I do midterm evals. I just ask everyone to pull out a piece of paper and let me know: what’s working and what isn’t, what they’d change, how much time they’re spending on the work, and whether they’re actually reading (and why not if not). Non-cnyical advantage: I can actually change things during the class, when it matters, and sometimes I do. Cynical advantage 1: Students can piss and moan earlier, felt as if they’re “being heard” and their “needs are being met,” and get on with life. Cynical advantage 2: Usually the most vile and obnoxious complaints get purged here, “in-house.”

– Also, I always spend time in class talking about evals. Anonymous evaluations are part of our culture now, from these student evals to Yelp and Tripadvisor, and they can be valuable if done right. I have learned important things from student evals and I have changed my pedagogy. So I tell students about doing them well, and pitch this as “strategies for making your voice heard” blah blah blah. I remind them that bad language or crazy insults means that administrators will discount the entire evaluation, as will comments that reveal an unrealistic view of what college should be (“He made me do homework!”).

– Finally, my university requires students to complete them before they can access their grades, so I get a 100% respond rate, which helps. Most people are even-keeled, but it does help drown out the crazy.

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