Spring semester at my institution is the time for student appraisals of teaching, those infamous forms that elicit sighs from young and old alike. I must confess that I did not take those evaluations very seriously when I was filling them out myself as an undergraduate. I usually gave an instructor 1′s or 5′s straight down the row. Part of the problem was the sheer number of areas to assess. Students just get impatient filling in all those bubbles.
In graduate school I was more diligent when scoring my professors, so I hope that redeems me somewhat.
Maybe it is payback but I find that my students don’t give very accurate feedback when they appraise my teaching now. How do I know? Well, one criteria on my evaluation states: “My instructor returns exams and assignments on a regular basis.” I always receive high marks on that one, even though I have had semesters where I don’t return any assignments at all because of cheating issues.
Some of the criteria seem on target for gathering useful information about instructors–things like “my instructor challenges me to think” or “my instructor presents material slowly when necessary.” Others are so arbitrary that they could be seen as positive or negative: “My instructor sticks to the subject.” Generally that would be a good thing, but how does that mesh with “my instructor relates course content to life situations”?
All of us should welcome feedback that can help us improve our craft. But getting constructive criticism can be difficult.
How have you, or your institution, elicited helpful comments from your students? I’ve used my own note-card questionnaire a few times to ask my students what material they learned well and what they need more work on. That helped, but it was not enough. Any suggestions?