This blogpost and podcast is for our colleagues in higher educations, professors, the world over.

This is #2 in our series on teaching: Course Evaluations

SC 93  #3. Course Evals: Focus #1: What do you do well?

Acknowledging our strengths as Professors

Excerpts from the podcast via iTunes.


In this podcast and blog post we’ll look at our “unique” students and explore how they perceive our work in the classroom and how we can recognize what we do well.

We begin by discussing how unique – how one-of-a-kind all human beings are.

During that one twenty minute – or so frame of time, our students will be asked, without us in the room, to put down on paper how well – or not – they thought we did.


If your class has 30 students enrolled:

  • You will receive 30 different opinions.
  • Perhaps this is the first time they have been asked to fill out one of these forms. For a first year freshman, most likely it is their first time.
  • Most likely, they were not made aware of this moment or the criterion that they would be judging at the beginning of your class.
  • They may have given some prior thought what they would say at this moment – or not.
  • They might be having 3 final exams on the same day.
  • They might be having a really bad day!
  • They may want to leave early and won’t give the evaluation their full attention.
  • This semester – they are unique to a class in 2014. Their life experiences will be different than the class in the same subject a few years ago.
  • Will our students compare us with other professors? They may. Remember, they are filling out course evaluations for other professors too. It is reasonable to surmise that they are comparing us.

Nonetheless, an average of this groups answers will arrive in your mailbox, sometime in the future.

Our students are unique and as such, no two of them are the same and no two groups of students are the same.

In our world, nothing is more complex and elusive than the way that we human beings interact with each other. Within this world is our classroom where we interact with our students and they with us.

We are unique individuals. As such, we think of ourselves as unique.

It is reasonable to surmise that:

  • Students may see us as the same as other professors.
  • Some students will identify an area where we are strong and others will identify the same area as a weakness.

All of this can provide us with a framework to understand the course evaluation and celebrate what our students believe that we are doing well.

This can be easy to forget when the stinging comments come our way.

  • Professor does not communicate clearly.
  • I learned more from all my other professors.
  • The professor didn’t even know my name.
  • The professor is a nice person, but not a very good teacher.
  • This teacher doesn’t like me.
  • This professor should never be allowed into a classroom.
  • Your tests are too hard.

Upon receiving your evaluations you need to look at your strengths and celebrate them. The time to address areas of concern can come later.

Higher Ed administrators look for “red flags.” We encourage administrators to look at the good things too.

Course evaluation help you figure out what you are doing well and what your strengths are.

We ask our students to do course evaluations just before their final exams. During this time:

  • Coffee shops proudly stay open 24 hours a day.
  • Restaurants don’t close.
  • This time and environment is not ideal because their experience has not concluded yet.

Nonetheless, there is value in these course evaluations. They have a way of being uncanilly accurate.

Don’t take these evaluations as the last word or as your value as a human being because our students are under stress. Do understand that the impressions that the students are giving you are amazingly consistent.

These evaluations can tell you a lot. We encourage you to read the big picture, not just the negative portions.

Balance out the negative comments with the positive ones:

  • Great professor!
  • Love this class!
  • What things would you change about this course? NOTHING!
  • Don’t change a thing!


Pay special attention to the written comments.
Try to fiind things that are positive.

In the same way, if all we do when we grade students papers is point out what they did wrong, it does not create a rich learning experience. You always have to point out what they are doing well too.

We need to focus in on and keep score of those things that we are doing well so we can understand what our strengths are.
When we understand what our strengths are we can use them to address some of our weaknesses.

Find a trusted colleague who you can share, discuss, and analyze your evaluations together.


Adjunct Faculty at Cardinal Stritch University

Good article and I agree…. depends on the student, the ones that like us or relate to what we are trying to get across, rate us high. Those that we find areas of their work that need improvement and try to be helpful rete us lower or very low. This is very true when students have not been help to higher standards in previous courses and are used to coasting along.

I always try to do my best, but know that I can’t please all of the people all of the time. And, yes it hurts when we get some comments we don’t like, but I do try to evaluate them and “if the shoe fits, I put it on”

Nothing. Heck, just ask my students. 🙂

Apparently I am hilarious. Just look at Rate my Professor. Hmmm…

Student Caring What do you do well? 

Right or control click here to download the MP3 of the Podcast.

SC 93  #3. Course Evals: Focus #1: What do you do well?





In this series we are going to talk about what is usually not discussed publicly, our course evaluations.


NEXT FRIDAY – – – – – SC 94 #4. Course Evals: Focus #2: What are your trends? / Learning from an analysis over time.

SC 95 #5. Course Evals: Course Organization
Are we organized and is it apparent?

SC 96 #6. Course Evals: Communication
How well are we understood?

SC 97 #7. Course Evals: Faculty-Student Interaction
How do our students perceive us?

SC 98 #8. Course Evals: Grading
How is our grading perceived?

SC 99 #9. Course Evals: Learning
Do our students believe they are learning?

SC 100#10. Course Evals: Student Engagement
Are our students engaging?


We welcome your feedback so we may continue to fulfill our mission statement and help students, the world over.

Thank you!

Daniel & David