Feedback we don’t want, but need

As instructors, we receive feedback about our teaching in various ways: personal summative or formative evaluation forms, departmental or institutional forms, class discussion or comments, interactions with students inside/outside the classroom, passing comments from colleagues, etc.  Some of these methods are considered to be valid and reliable, others are very informal.  We may even choose to search ourselves on a popular instructor rating guide entitled “Rate My Professors”, where we will be rated on topics such as helpfulness, clarity, easiness, and even hotness!

How do we respond to the comments that sting?  Those comments that attack our skills, our teaching methods, our course…  We know that the purpose of evaluation is to receive feedback, but no one ever wants to receive negative feedback.  The truth is, positive feedback is wonderful – a great ego-booster.  Negative feedback can be depressing, even demoralizing.  But it is the negative feedback that really offers us the opportunity to change and improve as instructors.

Isis Artze-Vega wrote an article for Faculty Focus that offers suggestions on how to “soothe the sting” from cruel student comments.  Whether the comments are positive or negative, instructors need to group the results into categories.  What are the areas that students are commenting on: curriculum, course design, assignments, learning activities, instructional delivery?  Some of these areas are beyond the control of the instructor – others are directly related to the instructor.

For comments that pertain to the instructor, we need to view these as an opportunity for reflection, and deciding what changes could/should be made.  Reading the comments with a colleague, or even a spouse might help you to recognize themes within the comments, and also offer an objective view.  Instructors must also pay equal attention to the positive evaluations, as these will provide affirmation that the teaching/learning journey is worthwhile, and will motivate us to continue in our work.  Student evaluations offer only one perspective on how we can improve as instructors.  We must use these results, together with self-reflection, and on actual student demonstration of learning to obtain a more valid and reliable “rating”.

To read Artze-Vega’s article, click here:

Artze, Vega, I. (2014). Cruel student comments: Seven ways to soothe the sting. Faculty Focus, Retrieved from


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Filed under PIDP 3260

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