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

This is #4 in our series on teaching: Course Evaluations

SC 94  #4. Course Evals: Focus #2: What are your trends?

Learning from an analysis over time.

Excerpts from the podcast via iTunes or StitcherSmartRadio


In this podcast and blog post we’ll look at course evaluations over time.

A course evaluation analogy with Kevin Bacon as the star.

DAVID: In my Introduction to the Arts class during the cinema section, I show the film “Taking Chance” which was released in 2009. Most of my students are introduced to the actor, Kevin Bacon at that moment.

Three weeks after that, during the dance portion of the class, I show a film clip from the iconic, “Footloose.” which was shot in 1984. Kevin Bacon looks considerably different in “Footloose” as Ren McCormack than he did in 2009 as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl in “Taking Chance.”

Film captures a performer as they looked during the filming of a movie.

Our performance evaluations take a snapshot of how that specific group of students perceived us as their professor during that one class in time.

During an academic term:

  • We may be teaching a class for the first time.
  • We may be filling in for a colleague who is on a sabbatical.
  • We may be having difficulties in our personal life that are far more important to us than our job.

Nonetheless, these are significant snapshots from our teaching lives and over time we are going to see some differences.

DANIEL: I think of myself as the same teacher I was about 20 years ago.

  • I am not the same as I was.
  • Teaching evaluations, just like a photograph, can give you a reality check up on your teaching.
  • Our students don’t know the “Us” of twenty years ago. They don’t know our history or our strengths, all they are seeing is the current snapshot.

2 ways to think about your course evaluations.

  1. Think about your course evaluations as trends that you can view over time.
  2. Think about your course evaluations as snapshots in a photo album to discover if what you see in your mind is the same as what your students are seeing.

A few weeks ago, David took his stage lighting design class on a backstage field trip to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks. While touring the Hyperion Theatre where the live stage production of Aladdin was performing he asked the question, “What performance number are you up to?” The flying carpet technician replied:

  • 12, 750
  • It is our job to make every single show as wonderful as it can be because I think of that father from Iowa who has saved up for 2 years to bring his family to this park and they only have one change in a lifetime to see this show.

In the same way, that is how it is in our classrooms.

  • Our students really have no idea about the class we taught 5 years ago and nor should they!
  • They are there to learn from us for that moment in time and to expect from us the best that we can give.

Important point: Your class needs to be as good as the best class you have ever taught.

  • If we know we are good at a certain area in our teaching, we may spend less time on that during our course preparation time.
  • The course evaluation will give you a reality check if you are no longer strong in that area.

When our students receive their papers back from us they immediately flip to the back page to see the grade. If it is a “C” or “D”, they don’t want to read the comments that you have written, even though the comments are the most important part learning. Same with us professors. When the evaluations are difficult, we don’t want to look at the comments. But, if you have the stomach for it, you need to address that over the upcoming semesters.

We all want to get “A’s!”


  • Consider keeping an evaluation journal where you note areas that are going well and areas that need improvement.
  • “Get the stomach” for this. We are not talking about this to make your evaluations better but to make your courses better. This is your first and only performance for your students.


Items referenced in this Post / Podcast:


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


Course EvaluationsStudent Caring & Footloose

Aladdin & Course Evaluations

Teaching in Higher Ed?



 Kevin Bacon – Then and now.



SC 94  #4. Course Evals:  Focus #2: What are your trends?




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


NEXT FRIDAY – – – – – 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