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What does it all mean? How to interpret student evaluations.

Take the time and effort to read the evaluations as honestly as you can. The goal is to determine which data will help you identify your teaching strengths and weaknesses so your teaching can improve.
  • Suggestion 1:

    Prepare to change one or two things about how you teach.

  • Suggestion 2:

    Read your evaluations with thick skin.

    It is difficult to absorb feedback if you feel defensive or insulted. If you want the evaluations to be of use, prepare for negative comments because you never know when you are going to get an insensitive or rude comment.

  • Suggestion 3:

    Look for general trends and overlook the outliers.

    Look for patterns in students evaluations. What do the numbers and the comments in these trends reveal about your strengths and weaknesses? As for the outliers, keep in mind that even the best teachers receive negative evaluations.

  • Suggestion 4:

    Seek explanations, but don’t explain away all the data.

    Evaluations are influenced by context–e.g., students with good grades and in smaller courses and electives tend to give more positive evaluations. Try to mentally correct for bias, and then look at what the numbers and comments tell you.

  • Suggestion 5:

    Focus on the elements of the evaluation that matter most.

    If there’s something you’re working on in your teaching, pay particular attention to that portion of the form to gauge how it’s going.

  • Suggestion 6:

    Decide if it’s appropriate to focus on student perception.

    If you are convinced that the ratings don’t match the reality of your teaching, you may want to focus on correcting the perception that generated the ratings. For example, if you are regularly available to students, but get low numbers on availability, the problem may be that students don’t know that you’re available, or they may find it difficult to approach you. In either case, student perception matters and has an impact on how students learn.

  • Suggestion 7:

    Choose one or two areas and commit to improving yourself in those areas.

    Focus in on one or two substantial things to work on. You can’t change everything overnight and trying to do so may do more harm than good. Meet with a peer, a chair, a colleague, or the director of ENGAGE to discuss ways to make improvements.

Adapted from Reihman, 2004  at Lehigh University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning

ENGAGE inspires and equips faculty to practice purposeful and innovative teaching to create transformational learning experiences that transcend the boundaries of the classroom.