My approach to reading teaching evaluations

As I am a teaching academic, teaching evaluations are an important part of my role. They contribute to my KPIs and allow me to determine how I am going with my teaching and what I can improve on. It can be incredibly daunting reading teaching evaluations as we don’t like to hear about things that we have done not so well. 

So I wanted to share a technique I use when reading the evaluations. 

Firstly, be in the right frame of mind to read them. If you have had a bad day, perhaps you just spilt coffee on your keyboard, or your manuscript just got rejected, wait until the next day to read the evaluations.

When you are starting to read them, start by skimming and identifying some positive things- we want to feel good at the start!

Ok, now this is where it gets a little tedious, but worth it! I copy and paste the comments into three sections:

  • Positive / no improvements identified
  • Constructive criticism
  • Unconstructive criticism 

When I am referring to constructive criticism, I am talking about comments that can be addressed. When I am talking about unconstructive criticism, I am talking about things that are beyond your control (e.g. I am an Online Lecturer and got the comment ‘having in-person classes would be good’). You can ignore the unconstructive criticism.

Now focus on the constructive criticism, are there any things that are being mentioned frequently? If so, then pay particular attention to these, and consider the following points.

  • Are these things you can improve on by yourself?
  • Do you need professional development?
  • Could you talk to a supervisor or colleague about these suggestions?

Now turn your focus to the positive comments. These feel nice to read but many may not be useful. “Great teaching” doesn’t tell you much. But look for positive comments that specifically state what you are doing well- e.g. “explains concepts clearly”, “responds promptly and in a friendly manner”.  Be sure to continue to implement these in future teaching periods!

Leave a Reply