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Mid-Semester Course Evaluations


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The 5-week course evaluations are in! Of course, being the perfectionist that I am, I attend more to the negative comments than to the positive ones. And, no, I cannot lower the amount of course readings.

My first reaction was dismay. I let it stew for a few hours. And then voila! I realized that what counts more than my students’ evaluations of my teaching are my supervisor’s and colleagues’ evaluations of my reaction to my students’ evaluations. It’s kind of circular, but the point is that I needed some perspective. These students are with me for one semester–15 weeks. My colleagues will be with me–forever, in a sense. And my supervisor will evaluate me as long as I choose to TA for this course (which they hope will be for at least two more years).

So, my reaction? Of course, there is always room for improvement. The reality, though, is that you can’t please everyone. So the thing is to make sure you know who you are supposed to please!


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Some things that students always, always complain about:

-The reading. It's always too much (even when it's very little) and it's always boring.

-The length of class. Class is always too long and not entertaining enough.

-Grading. It's always "subjective" from their point of view, or based on whether or not you like them.

-The workload. You're always asking too much of them.

-Tests and quizzes. How dare actually hold them accountable for doing the reading!

-Attendance policies. If you actually expect your students to arrive on time for class (and count them absent when they're not there), you're going to hear about it.

If you're getting complaints like this--congratulations, you're a college teacher. And your supervisors and colleagues are going to understand that you're a good teacher with standards, so of course you're not going to be popular.

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Just wanted to update this topic... My supervisor says that the 5-week evaluations were a chance for many students to rant and that she's not sure what the department will do in the future since the response rate was lower than expected. In my section, I actually had 20 out of the 23 students respond, rather thoughtfully, so I think my evaluations were fairly representative. She thought my evaluations were great and even talked to my advisor about it, who mentioned it to me last week. Which brings up another point--do your professors talk about the grad students, and in what ways?

Anyway, I think what I said originally was right--as long as my supervisor is happy, then I'm good, because she'll be the one writing my letter of recommendation.

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