teaching evaluations

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soon_on_the_market:
Hello, everybody,

I have a semi-etiquette question.

I am a very good teacher. I will go on the job market in the fall, since my contract expires. As a part of my application package, I am going to include my recent teaching evaluations.
The problem is that while the numbers on evaluations are quite good (around 8 out of 9 usually), there are not many comments. I noticed that if students are unhappy, they will write a lot (how they lost points on a midterm; how the professor was late for 5 minutes, whatever). But if everything went well and they enjoyed the course, they barely say a word!
Don't they understand how improtant their (honest!) positive comments can be?

How can I etically encourage them to provide more written comments?

Please, share your experiences... I have no clue how to handle this.

Thanks!

Fiona:
In addition to whatever standardized form you're using, you can make up your own little essay form and have students answer it in class, seal it up, and have it given to a department secretary until the end of the semester (that's so students will know things are anonymous).

Your essay form can ask things like, "How did the professor show enthusiasm for the course?" and "Which were the most memorable classes?" and "When and where did you do your best contributions to the class?" Ask questions that will get you positive feedback and responses, wherever possible.

[%sig%]

Enigma:
Hi,

I've gotten elaborate responses by doing two things-

Before I hand them out and when I give quick instructions - I have told students that this is my first year or two teaching, I take them very seriously, and read all of their comments.  A few students have responded to this by writing a  small novel.

Also, one piece of documentation that I have with many student responses - (I am assuming you have the same there) - I had the Center for Teaching come into my class part way through the semester. I met with them in advance, requested the type of questions that I would like them to ask, etc.  In the class, these people came in, had students work in small groups, and they filled out and submitted responses to what would you improve, what did you like, etc. I think that was the most valuable feedback that I ever received - very detailed.

Good luck.

B.F.:
I do what Fiona suggests. My questions are: "What worked well?", "What did not work well?", and "Is there anything you think should change?" I do this for my own information, and do not include the written evaluations in my application packet. I think that the committee will not take the time to read through all of the comments and will only focus on the numbers.

CC adjunct:
I simply tell me students how important the evaluations are to me, and that I want their feedback.  I've also explained to them before that evaluations are used for advancement, too, not just getting rid of bad instructors.  This makes them a little more motivated to help out an instructor they like (as opposed to just targeting the ones they can't stand).

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