Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When Student Evaluations Become a Nightmare

I woke up today at 5 am after a horrible nightmare concerning student evaluations. Today is the day when my students in all three of my classes are doing their teacher evaluations, and this fact is causing me an intense amount of stress. In class, my hands are shaking and I'm losing my breath because I'm so nervous.

The reason this is so stressful to me is not because I'm afraid that the students will write something nasty about me. I have a feeling my students really like me, and, besides, my evaluations have always been fantastic. What causes me this extreme amount of stress is the need to explain the new format of teacher evaluations to the students. The format of evaluations was changed as a result of the recent push to quantify student responses that I discussed here.

I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person but it took me a while to understand how these new quantifiable evaluations work. It took me even longer to come up with a way of explaining this to the students. Honestly, I have never had to spend this much time preparing any of my classes, even ones that deal with very complex topics. I keep going over the whole system in my head, but there are still details that escape me. It is possible that I'm having so much trouble with understanding how this works because of my autism. Hopefully, it will be less difficult for the students to figure this out.

The saddest thing is that as a result of all this effort and stress I will get a bunch of meaningless numbers that will hardly tell me anything about my performance in this course. Today, after I explained some grammar point to some students and was walking away, I heard one of them whisper to another: "I just love her! Don't you?" That's what I want to get from my student evaluations. I think I deserve that after all the effort I put into my teaching and student advisement outside of class. Instead, I'm losing time and sleep over somebody's unhealthy attachment to quantifying the unquantifiable.

P.S. Apparently, the students' got a hang of this process a lot faster than I did. I guess it was autism that made this so hard for me.


Brianna said...

Don't take this the wrong way, but judging by the way student evaluations are taken at my university you are wasting your time. There is a teacher in my department who would have been fired YEARS ago if they actually mattered at all.

Clarissa said...

Oh, I agree. This does happen a lot. However, I find them useful because they tell me what I can change in my teaching to help students. That matters to me a lot.