Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Evaluating Me

I finally got my course eval summaries back today. They look pretty good. The two smaller senior level courses gave me great evals. The big required course with 50+ students, not as great (but not bad, I don't think).

Thing is, I don't know how to read these things. I mean, what numbers should I be expecting? When they put my numbers next to a comparison group on a bar chart, how should I match up? If my numbers are better than those, is it significant? If they're lower, is it a problem? If they're lower in a required class that no one wants to take, is it expected (and thus ignored)?

I wish I had a bit more information...


At 2:05 PM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

Can you get hold of a compilation of ranges/averages for your department/division/school? Everywhere I've worked that's done numbers in evals has also given out a compilation of what the averages are (for instance, the average answers to question #6 in a small, medium, or large class; in a science, social, science, or humanity). Then again, I have a friend who works somewhere where there is NO central recording of such numbers AT ALL, so I realize it's possible (it shocked me, but it depends on the resources your school has to enter numbers in a spreadsheet, I guess).

Anyway, if your school doesn't distribute that or have it available on the web somewhere, I would feel free to ask your department chair if s/he can give you a sense of where the numbers stand in comparison to the rest of the department. (Your school may really ignore this information entirely and then s/he won't be able to tell you much, but I think it's completely fair to ask.)

From my own experience, people definitely expect to see lower numbers in larger classes and required classes. People also look at things like percentage of respondents (if you have a glowing - or conversely, crappy - average but only 30% of students were there to fill them out, one has to take the evals with a grain of salt).

At my last job evals were part of the pre-tenure annual reviews, and we (untenured t-t faculty) were expected to be "at or above" the norms. Which cracked us up, of course, b/c if we all *were* at or above (as we usually were), who the heck was bringing those norms down then?

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always used evaluations to compare myself against myself, rather than to other professors. That is, I would see how I was doing against my past courses with each new set, reminding myself that each group of students is unique at the same time. Otherwise, the written comments were always good for a laugh with the other professors, for typically what the students wrote as negatives the department saw as positives, like "he uses books that are too hard."

glen @


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