Do you remember when I was overwhelmed earlier this semester? That new grad class that met for 75 minutes 4 days a week? I resolved to be a Good Enough Prof in lieu of being clotheslined by perfectionism.
I still felt an unhappy shiver when I got the email from my chair telling me that my evals were ready to read. It was so painful to see the evals I got from my grad students after the spring semester of 2015, and I was teaching a lot of the same material this time around.
I decided to rip the bandaid, face the music, beard the lion. And...they were totally fine. One respondent strongly disagreed with everything, which might mean that she read the scale wrong or might mean that she hated everything about the class -- I'll probably never know which. Overall? They were A-OK. Ten percent of the students wanted me to be more organized. I'm a little surprised the number wasn't higher, because it felt like such a mad scramble to maintain that pace. For all of the remaining items, all of the responses were favorable except for the lone Ms. Strongly Disagree.
There are always things that students want professors to tweak. This set of students would like less material, please, presented more slowly. They would prefer that their exam not be online and that they have more time to prepare for it. But the malice and judgment, the miasma of nasty that wafted up from the last set of evals describing my performance as an instructor for this material -- those were totally absent. The last batch of students said, "Dr. Gladly should not be teaching this class"; this crew said, "Dr. Gladly is extremely knowledgeable and passionate." Same instructor using many of the same slides to present a bunch of the same facts illustrated by a lot of the same stories and punctuated by some of the same jokes-- totally different student perspectives. There's a surprising amount of research out there about bias in student evaluations, but I'm still a little startled by the contrast: my student evaluations do not appear to be very objective.
My chair, I told you last summer, shrugged off the ugly evals. "It's a blip," she said. I didn't really believe her at the time, but it appears that she was right. Let's hope so.