Tip 40: Evaluations

Too bad I don’t remember these things before the evaluations are due… Maybe I’ll make a note to myself to check back here from time to time.

These great (and funny) ideas are from the Chronicle’s forums.

On eval forms, students will parrot back anything you tell them during the semester.

One semester I apologized profusely when I didn’t get assignments back to the students particularly quickly. That semester, the comments were all about “she should get our papers back to us more quickly.”

The following semester, I was similarly slow, but stressed how concerned I was about giving each paper individual attention. That semester, the comments were all about “she gives each paper individual attention.”

One semester, I had to work under the constraints of a hideous department grading scale, under which anything under 95% was an A-. I covered my butt with the students by telling them that this grading scale was a departmental thing, and I would do things differently, but… The comments that semester were all about “the departmental grading scale is wack.”

The semester after that, I stressed to the students that for this particular course, a more stringent grading scale was imperative since these were real-world skills they were learning–and the real world was far more unforgiving than any professor could ever hope to be. The comments that semester were all about “thank you for preparing us for real-world standards.”

Want good evaluations? Tell them what you want them to write. Not the day of, of course, but throughout the semester. They’re listening, at least to that part.

And it doesn’t hurt (not just for evals–just in general) to mention at the end of any particularly successful class meeting that you appreciated their preparation and willingness to engage. “Good thinking today! Thanks.”


Yes, this is true. They’ll write pretty much whatever you tell them as long as you can make them think it’s their own idea – I think it’s related to the way they ask you about whether everything they do is “what you want”. I tell them how happy I am to be there, and how I’m looking forward to spending the semester with them, and they say things like, “mad_doctor is so passionate about teaching” and “it’s great to have a professor who cares about his students”. I also make a point of telling them how I’m impressed by how much they have learned by comparison to other classes, so they know how to answer the “How much did you learn?” question on the eval. I actually really do grade papers quickly, so I don’t have to make anything up, but I’m sure to tell them how hard I worked to provide timely feedback for them, and they respond with, “mad_doctor is one of the hardest working professors in the college”.

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