Making the Most of Your Teaching Evaluations

It’s the end of the semester, and you’re wrapping up the class you’re TAing. Just a few more classes, and your students will hand in their final assignments and take their final exam. And they’ll complete a teaching evaluation. How can you make the most of the evaluation?

Improve Feedback Quality

Use midterm evaluations, such as the TABS administered through the Teaching Documentation Program here at UNL.

Ask your students to write a letter to the next class with tips on how to do well.

Video Transcript:

Making the Most of Your Teaching Evaluations

Step One: Sit down and evaluate yourself. Keep in mind that you’ll be more generous with yourself than your students. Compare your response to your student feedback.

Step Two: See if you have enough responses. If less than half your students responded, then your evaluations may not be representative of your students’ experience.  You can still get good information from the evaluations; just keep in mind that you tend to hear from students who feel strongly one way or another. You usually won’t hear from the people who describe their experience as “average.”

As you read, keep feedback in perspective. If you get one or two critical or negative evaluations, try to be generous and see where the critique lies. If you can’t, take the critique with a grain of salt. Remember that these evaluations do not reflect who you are as an instructor.

Step Three: Focus on quantifiable questions “The instructor communicates well,” where the student rates you on a scale of 1-5 (1 being “never,” 5 “always”).  

Did the responses for a question group together, or were there outliers? If most of your students give you a “4” and one student gives you a “1,” you might dismiss that response as an outlier. But if half of your class rates you highly and the other half offers a more critical rating, reflect on why your students had such varied experiences.

Step Four: Take a look at the written comments. If you have a low rating on one of the quantifiable questions, you’ll likely find the reason for the rating here. For example, if a majority of your students gave you a “sometimes” rating on the question “The course was intellectually challenging,” the comments under “What did you like least about this course?” may reveal that students felt they had too much homework or that the papers assigned were boring.

Step Five: Use the feedback to improve your teaching for next semester. If your students gave you negative feedback about a specific assignment, reconsider parts or all of the assignment. Consult with colleagues and advisors to revise assignments and come up with new ideas.

Step Six: Use the evaluations (and any changes that you make) to write a reflection for your teaching portfolio. You can write about how you changed your teaching or restructured your class to respond to your students’ feedback. Be sure to address how your changes help your students achieve learning goals!