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Highs and lows of course evaluations

Student ratings and comments in course evaluations can bolster teachers’ sense of efficacy. But even a single less-than-favourable rating or comment has the potential for disproportionately occupying our thoughts. This phenomenon—of focusing on the one or two negative comments among a sea of positive ones—is common.

Maryellen Weimer addresses this matter in her recent blog post What to Do About Those Negative Comments on Course Evaluations. She makes several suggestions for how to stop obsessing over those few less-than-favourable evaluations, stating: “It requires concerted effort and the application of some self-discipline.” Among her suggestions:

“Step back. For the moment, let it go and move on to something else. Read every positive comment three times and smile.

Look again later, but with objectivity. How many negative comments were there, versus no comments and positive ones? Try deleting the emotional language in the comment. Make it sound like constructive feedback and then consider what happened in the course that might have generated the response. Does the student have a point?”

Click to read Weimer’s other suggestions.

What suggestions do you have for dealing with the one or two poor course evaluation comments among a sea of positive ones?

Academic Associate at McGill's Teaching and Learning Services.; former Senior Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre; area of specialization: Second Language Education; loves teaching and learning; will work for chocolate (Photo credit: Owen Egan)

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