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Author Topic: Useful things to say on student evaluations?  (Read 1995 times)
throughbeingcool
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« on: May 11, 2008, 7:43:56 pm »

Hello, forum.

I am at a science major at a community college, and I have had some excellent teachers this semester. When the day arrives that teacher performance evaluations are handed out, I would like to say things that will help my tenure-tracked teachers get their tenure. It seems like there are probably "nice things to say", and then there are "nice things to say that will leave bosses impressed".

So, what would your ideal evaluation say? (From a tenure-getting viewpoint, that is. I could be honest about why I have appreciated my teachers, but I could also do that in person. I would rather use the "official" evaluation to do my teachers some good.)

Thanks for the insight,

Through Being Cool.
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iomhaigh
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2008, 7:46:49 pm »

Just be honest -- but explain why you think what you think.  Give examples.  Be specific.  In other words, write well and support your argument.

The bosses (or deans/ chairs) will be impressed by different things; there's no one "correct" thing to say. 

(Unless, of course, no one has let me into the club and told me the magic words....)
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the_myth
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2008, 7:47:36 pm »

Just be honest.

Don't be over-the-top with your wording and praise.

Be as specific as possible with what you think worked well in the course.

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the_honey_badger
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2008, 7:50:05 pm »

One of those "admin pleasers" is always the "tough but fair" line along with "how much I learned" and "how generous X is with his time and assistance."  Another is "I worked hard in this class and really earned the "B" I got! I'd recommend X to any CC of California Student!:
 The "X rocks!" might get quoted if he has a friendly tenure committee but isn't really much help in the long run except as a summary statement after some specifics about what a credit X is to the school, the human race and the school.

Its all about their delusions that everyone can be a private tutor to every student, inspire everyone to greatness, and yet still be a tough grader that pleases people on a personal level.
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throughbeingcool
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2008, 7:58:35 pm »

Regarding being specific:
I somehow had the idea that I was supposed to word my comments in a way that maintains anonymity. I don't know where that impression came from though, now that I think about it.

So, is it bad form to use examples that scream "Hey! This is the identity of the particular student who filled out this evaluation!"?

(I am posting on a forum full of teachers and it is making me bats*** paranoid about my spelling and grammar...) (or is that "bat s***"?)
« Last Edit: May 11, 2008, 8:01:37 pm by throughbeingcool » Logged
magistra
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2008, 8:14:27 pm »

Heh heh.  You'd better be.

By "specifics" we just mean that you need to target the areas that you really liked about his teaching -- he was accessible, a great lecturer, whatever.  It's about him, not you, so you likely won't "out" yourself.  Even if you do, the class is over, right?  He likely won't see these for weeks.  Even if you're taking another class with him, as long as you're honest and your comments aren't over the top, why worry? 

Try this: whatever you say about him, add the word "because".  "He was a great professor because..."  "His assignments were useful because..."  You know, add those supporting details we like to see in essays.
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the_myth
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2008, 8:18:35 pm »

Anonymity is for your protection.

If you don't sign an evaluation, but say nice things, will it ever affect you negatively?  It's not likely...
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odessa
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2008, 8:42:35 pm »

If the prof really helped you with something specific, don't be afraid to say it.

For example, "I didn't do very well on the first exam and Professor Science spent time during office hours helping me understand my mistakes.  S/he also made suggestions about ways to improve my study habits.  The cool thing is, that helped me in all my classes!"

Yes, the above phrase may "out" you to Prof. Science, but it also shows him/her that a student really appreciated his/her time and effort.  It also does the following for the higher-ups who will be reviewing Prof. Science's performance:

1.  It's specific
2.  Indicates availability
3.  Shows that Prof Science is interested in over all learning (helping you understand your mistakes and improving your study habits.)
4.  Shows the higher ups that Prof. Science is an asset to the overall mission of the CC.

By the way, it's good to be paranoid about your spelling and grammar when you're writing things that profs will be reading -- like evaluations!

Here's a little secret:  a lot of student comments get brushed aside because professors and  administrators have a hard time taking extremely poorly written criticisms about teaching seriously.

Glad you had such great experiences with your profs and courses this semester.

O.
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jacaranda_
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2008, 9:03:52 pm »

Lots of good advice here.  I would add that details are very helpful (even the ones that you think might "out" you to your professor, that's not really a problem) and being able to talk about how the professor either helped to strengthen your interest in the major and/or how the skills you learned in the class will help you in other classes.  Taking the time to write the evaluation carefully and thoughtfully means that your words will also carry more weight. 

And aside from how these evals will have an impact on the professor's tenure review, we also simply remember the most thoughtful and appreciative evals -- sometimes for a long time.  It's one of the things that helps to reinvigorate our sense of enjoyment in what we do, especially at the end of a long semester.   
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odessa
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2008, 9:22:40 pm »

And aside from how these evals will have an impact on the professor's tenure review, we also simply remember the most thoughtful and appreciative evals -- sometimes for a long time.  It's one of the things that helps to reinvigorate our sense of enjoyment in what we do, especially at the end of a long semester.   

I second this in a big way.  Positive words from students mean a lot to us.  Some comments help us know we're on the right track in terms of what we're doing in our classrooms.  Others just let us know that all the time and energy we put into trying to be better professors is worth it.

O.
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voxprincipalis
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2008, 10:03:32 pm »

First, OP, please consider transferring to my school and taking all my classes. :)

(Just kidding; I do not teach in the sciences.)

Second: One of the things that is always a problem with course evals is that lots of students are unable to separate their feelings about the course content from their evaluation of the teaching of the class. E.g.: I hate math, so therefore this class sucks. Focusing on the teaching of the course rather than your opinions about its content would be great, especially since you're at a community college, where effective teaching tends to be more highly valued than at some other kinds of institutions.

Third: Once you're done with those profs, if you really think they've done a great job and you'd like to tell someone, write a letter (signed) and send it to their chair/dean/whoever. Letters like these go into our personnel files and are often used in tenure evaluations. My school actually goes through lists of students we've taught and solicits letters from them when it's tenure time.

On behalf of all of us, thank you for recognizing your professors' hard work and for wanting to give feedback in a helpful and constructive way. Students like you go a long way towards restoring the faith of those who spend 98% of the time dealing with the "I hate math, so therefore this class sucks" type. Thank you. Seriously.

VP
« Last Edit: May 11, 2008, 10:06:30 pm by voxprincipalis » Logged

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mended_drum
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2008, 10:20:37 pm »

As a professor, I find the most helpful comments to be those about specific assignments, textbooks and topics.  Students sound intelligent and reflective when they can note what worked and didn't work for them during the semester. 
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