Course evaluations are a part of every PACE class. They can be both a valuable insight for instructors, and a source of stress. Knowing how to look at them takes some forethought and practice.
All instructors are asked to provide time in the last class for students to complete evaluations. In the full time programs, evaluations are completed online. Students have a link from Nexus to the evaluation page which they can complete for each course in the program. In part time classes, students complete the evaluations in hardcopy; best practice for these paper forms is to designate one student to collect then and return them to the PACE Registration office or drop box.
To encourage completion, it is best practice not to do them as the last item of the day or before lunch; students tend to just get up and leave. A better practice is to ask students to complete them right after coming back from a break or at the start of class to encourage better completion rates. It’s also a good idea to remind students that the evaluations are anonymous and shared with instructors only after grades are turned in.
When you go to review course evaluations, it’s is best to ensure that you are in the right frame of mind. If you are unhappy, you are going to fixate on the negative comments, which is unfair to you and your next group of students. (A tip I picked up listening to the podcast Teaching in Higher Ed, episode 165: http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/teaching-lessons-course-evaluations/)
As you review the evaluations, keep in mind the population you are teaching. Some students are going to love you no matter what, some students will hate you no matter what; throw out the top comment and the bottom comment. You are teaching to the students in the middle, pay attention to what they have to say.
Looking at those comments from the middle, remember why you reading these: to learn and improve yourself. Look at comments that provide some insight beyond just “this was good” or “I liked it”. In some cases, you may need to remind yourself about why certain points are in the materials. I have seen comments where students question the material being taught; I always revisit why it is present and confirm that the material is valid. Students are not necessarily in the best place to judge why material is included, but they can certainly provide insight into how material is being received.
Take the feedback to heart, identify something that you will do differently next time and make notes right away so you don’t forget. No one is perfect, so taking the time to look at small ways to improve our content and our delivery is always a good idea. With a little bit of practice on how to read them, feedback can be an invaluable part of growing as an instructor.