Sunday, February 08, 2009

Evaluations from the Center of Gravitas

From the Blog: Center of Gravitas:
Gos na'chalek este.

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My last post exposed some ambivalence among faculty about the role of “official” teaching evaluations from students. Most of us do want feedback on content, but there also seems to be a general consensus that the weight given to student evaluations is out of kilter with the actual hard work that goes into teaching. I also believe that most students are not well informed about the purpose of evaluations.As many of us are seeing last semester’s teaching evaluations return to us, let me help you read between the lines of those anonymous student comments that aren’t really about your teaching at all. It’s time for one of my favorite segments at CoG, “What They Say and What They Really Mean.”

What They Say in the Written Evaluation: “This class was one of the best classes that I have ever taken.”

What They Mean: “This class was one of the best classes that I have ever taken.”

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What They Say: “This is the worst class that I have ever taken.”

What They Mean: “This class challenged many of my most basic assumptions and required me to work hard.”

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What They Say: “This professor was really condescending.”

What They Mean: “I can’t take criticism.”

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What They Say: “This class required too much reading.”

What They Mean: “To pass this class, I actually had to crack a book on my own time.”

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What They Say: "This class was so easy it was a joke."

What They Mean: "After years of reading student complaints in evaluations, this professor has simply given up."

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What They Say: "This professor is a leading scholar in the field."

What They Mean: "This professor assigned hir own book as required reading."


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What They Say: “This was one of the funniest professors that I have ever had.”

What They Mean: “I didn't learn a damn thing, but the professor should be given a late-night talk show.”

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What They Say: “This professor was filled with lots and lots of energy.”

What They Mean: “I think that this professor might have a cocaine problem.”


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What They Say: “The professor should post the lecture notes on-line so that we can have something to follow in class.”

What They Mean: “The professor should post the lecture notes on-line so that we won’t have to go to class at all.”

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What They Say: "This professor is a fool."

What They Really Mean: "My hubris as a first-semester freshman leads me to believe that I know more than the people who spent the past twenty years studying this topic."

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What They Say: “Discussion during class was often filled with awkward silence.”

What They Mean: “My classmates didn’t do any of the reading and therefore had nothing to say.”

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What They Say: “The professor has the worst taste in clothes that I have ever seen.”

What They Mean: “I have no idea about what constitutes an appropriate professional relationship and will probably be fired from my first job.”

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What They Say: “This class should have had more films.”

What They Mean: “I was often too drunk to pay attention to the lectures.”

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What They Say: “This class had a lot of films.”

What They mean: “The professor was often too drunk to lecture.”

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What They Say: "This class involved a lot of discussion of the cultural significance of Wonder Woman."

What They Mean: "This class was taught by GayProf."


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What They Say: “Grading for this class was totally unfair.”

What They Mean: “I am getting a ‘F’ in this class.”

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What They Say: “Grading for this class was totally fair.”

What They mean: “I am getting an ‘A’ in this class.”


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What They Say: “There was too much reading about women in this class.”

What They Mean: “I think women should be chained to the stove.”

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What They Say: “This class was so unfair. I passed the AP test in this topic and yet I still ended up with a ‘C.’”

What They Mean: “I have confused high-school competence for university-level work.”

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What They Say: “I was really disappointed that we didn’t talk more about battlefield strategies in this history class.”

What They Mean: “I get most of my information about the past from the History Channel.”

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What They Say: “I was really disappointed that we didn’t talk about more contemporary novels in this literature class.”

What They Mean: “I think John Grishman is the pinnacle of American literature.”

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What They Say: “This professor was too strict.”

What They Mean: “I had fantasies about this professor spanking me.”


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What They Say: “This professor had a political agenda.”

What They Mean: “This professor didn’t allow me to spout off about my political agenda without evidence to support my point.”

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What They Say: “I shouldn’t have to read about gay people in a class that is required for graduation.”

What They Mean: “My religion teaches me to think of gays and lesbians as less than human.”

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What They Say: “The attendance policy for this class treats us like we are children.”

What They Mean: “I had to cancel a two-week vacation in Paris because attendance was required for this class.”

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What They Say: “This class would have been better if taught by an American.”

What They Mean: “I am a member of the KKK.”

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What They Say: “The lectures were monotonous and boring.”

What They Mean: “I have confused attending university with watching television.”

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What They Say: “This woman (or African American, or Latino/a, or Asian) professor clearly favored women (or African American, or Latino, or Asian) students.”

What They Mean: “I don’t like taking classes that aren’t taught by a white man.”

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What They Say: “This professor didn’t care at all about students and was really detached.”

What They Mean: “This professor expected us to be adults and do our work.”

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What They Say: “This class really stimulated my interest in this topic. I frequently went to office hours just to talk more about the material. I have now declared this topic my major.”

What They Mean: “I am secretly in love with this professor.”

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What They Say: The professor was often late to class.

What They Mean: This professor secretly fights crime on the side.

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