Contract and Employment Questions

I recently reviewed my course and instructor evaluation results from Winter semester.    I usually get a mix of good and bad feedback.  Some I nod at and understand—OK, I did well there or I can improve on that.  But sometimes I don’t understand the feedback, such as if it is extremely negative or just negative in an area where I was sure I was doing well.

How do you process these evaluation results, tending toward feeling determined to improve and not letting the negative get you down?

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  • My thought is to be honest with yourself. We often make excuses or justify our way out of changing. I had a student who said I was indifferent and my first thought was, "I am NOT!" But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that to some students that didn't need a lot of attention and could get by relatively easily I probably did seem indifferent because I didn't have extra communication with the student. Hence, I started trying to specifically reach out to all the students. There are always things we can work on and as we're honest with ourselves, we can find what we need to work on.

  • Eric,

    I had an interesting experience on my mission that I think has application here. I had a companion who was struggling for various reasons on his mission. On one occasion he snapped and began yelling at me at the top of his lungs, making all sorts of false accusations. At the time, the Spirit told me to say very little and just listen, so that's what I did, I sat there for about 15 minutes mostly just listening to him yell at me. After he was done I went into the other room of our apartment and sat and pondered. I can still remember the feeling of calm, even though I had just spent 15 minutes listening to someone accuse me of all sorts of false accusations, I wasn't angry. On the surface, it wouldn't seem like there was any truth to what he was saying (some of the things he said were way out there), but I decided to look past the words and try to find meaning. As I let the Spirit work, I began to find precious jewels of learning in what had happened and what was said and I became a better missionary for it.

    Although sometimes we may scratch our heads at the negative comments, I know I have, some of our best learning can come from these comments. I think that by learning through the Spirit and having those moments of clarity and inspiration eliminate the feelings that "get us down." This is what I experienced on my mission, that exchange never bothered me, in fact I was grateful for it because I came to see things in a way I may not have seen otherwise. I've had this experience of finding gems of knowledge in negative comments or situations several times since my mission and I guess for me what it all comes down to is, as President Benson stated "it is the Spirit that matters most" in this situation. Negative feelings and the Spirit cannot be present at the same time, so I think that this is the key for knowing what to glean. I am definitely not perfect at doing this, but this is where I try to get to.

    • Brian, that makes a lot of sense.  Thanks for sharing that experience and insight.

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    • I like the concept of a self evaluation prior to reviewing the results helps have a good perspective on how I gauge the results. I also know that asking for the spirit to help me understand the results helps as well.

  • I love listening to some tapes I have where Truman Madsen talks about the life and teachings of Joseph Smith. One of the many lessons I like from them was how Joseph handled criticism. He quotes Joseph Smith as saying (badly paraphrased) " A brother asked me why I did not become offended or attempt to silence those who spoke ill of me. I told the brother that even though on the surface the criticism may seem unjust or falsified, if I looked close enough and thought long enough I would be able to see areas of improvement from it." 

    Obviously none of us are going to face anywhere close to the criticism Joseph did in our teacher evaluations. However, I try to incorporate his thought process into mine. I read all the comments carefully and even the extremely and in my eyes unjustly negative ones I try to think what I can improve rather than dismiss them as "that crazy student."

    P.S. It definitely helps to go back and reread all the positive comments after this exercise. Praise is good for the soul as well. 

    • Great idea, Jess.

  • It was a lot easier to identify the "obvious" negatives back when the on campus version of evaluations were still used in Online Learning (yes, I'm an old dog). When students would mark that I didn't uphold the dress and grooming standards (which, although I do often grade in my PJs, is something my students are completely unaware of), I knew it was a blanket "bad eval."

    Now it's a little bit harder. As Joel noted, I often skim the positives and go straight to the negative to see what I need to work on (I should go back and read all of the positives afterward, so I don't feel so disheartened). Here are some of the tips I've found useful in processing student evals:

    1. Look for patterns in reporting. I will find trends in my evals that give me a better perspective of areas I need to focus on. When I ruminate on one or two bad comments, I tend to miss the big picture and sometimes even change things that were actually working for me. Keep the big picture in mind.

    2. Recognize that comments relating to course design, course improvements, etc, are up to the Course Council to process and work through. If you notice consistent feedback from students, submit your improvement ideas in the manner outlined by your OCR at the beginning of the semester or by using the online submission form. But don't beat yourself up over elements that are beyond your control.

    3. This actually should be number one, but we talk about preparing with the Spirit. In the video presentation that accompanies Elder Bednar's book, Act in Doctrine, he makes the comment that we can pray that we can see ourselves as we really are--but does so with a warning to not take that lightly. As we pray for inspiration and guidance as we approach our evals, we can be guided to see those areas where we can improve our facilitation styles to benefit our students. The Lord is the master teacher, and, through the Spirit, he can help us find those areas where we can improve most.

    Anywho, there's a wooden nickel for what it's worth.

    • Great advice, Kim! I am very anxious for this semester's evaluations because after many semesters of complaints, my Course Council finally changed one of the main things students didn't like in my class.

      We obviously all have room for improvement, but I also think sometimes recognizing and accepting that certain areas are never going to change for us can be freeing. In my case, I'm not a phone talker. When I first started, I was awed by all the instructors that were making personal phone calls to students to build relationships. I thought I should try to do that, too. Two years later I know I'm never going to be a phone talker, so I need to play to my strengths and focus on my own more comfortable methods for building relationships with my students.

    • Kimberly, this is some really good advice. Thanks for sharing your process.

  • I have often wondered the same thing.   Thanks for asking the question in the online community.

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