College profs: any interesting comments on student evals?

I’ve always been curious about what other people write on their evaluations. Are they helpful? Do you get some really odd comments? How often do you get people taking anonymous shots without saying anything constructive?

I usually try to be helpful and say what I liked in the class, and what I think might have worked better if it would have been handled differently. A friend of mine commented that the professor was a sharp dresser.

I’m not prof, but I am a student (unionist) who conducted evaluations for a few classes. Ours are extremely boring, usually only very generic comments. About the only insight that I gained was that people really hate it when lecturers read from their slides.
Our evaluations have some very basic problems. The department wants them, but they have no immediate consequences. Furthermore our classes are small. This gives us a tiny sample of opinions (e.g. psycholinguistics got a staggering return of 3 questionnaires) and opinions can almost be traced to students.
We are currently looking for ways to enhance our evaluations, but we haven’t reached any useful conclusions yet.

I did some temp work a few years ago. One of the jobs was to type up all the evaluations for a local university’s Liberal Arts department. This was so the comments were not in the students’ handwriting when the professors read them, theoretically cutting down on the likelihood that the students would be recognized.

Anyway, most of the comments were pretty stupid. Most people just wrote stuff like, “Great class” or “Teacher really hard.” Many of them were pretty whiny about how hard the assignments were or that too much was expected of them. There was one history professor who provoked long diatribes about how mean he was. Those were my favorites. The same professor had a few scattered evaluations that were really well written, extolling his dry sense of humor and exciting lectures. It really made me want to sign up for a class. I think he taught American history.

The other really funny ones were those from a comparative religion class complaining about how Jesus was the one true Lord and that there was too much focus on other religions. The school was in a semi-rural community in the South, so these comments weren’t really surprising to me.

Not a professor, but it’s one of my jobs as a student senator to file the faculty evaluation every year. The ones I come across with comments are almost always entirely superficial. This is probably caused by the fact that sometimes they are filled out at the end of a class period, and the students dash them off. The more polarizing professors get more feedback, but it is usually extreme. One professor in the physics department who has a nasty habit of teaching two degrees above 101 students’ heads gets a good deal of nasty “I knew more about physics before this class than I do now” feedback, but his advanced and grad students adore him. Professors who are hard graders, but teach well get the same effect.

In short, you won’t get much meaningful information from a self-report survey.

I taught CS for a lot of years. Most of the comments were extremely bland, mickey mouse complaints, small praise, etc. E.g., one recurring comment was that the way I stood while writing on the board covered up what I was writing. Well duh! I’m right handed! Guess where my body’s going to be? I am careful to stand back from time to time so students can see what I wrote, but while in the act of writing, I have to deal with the laws of Physics.

The worst student evaluation I know of all time was in fact one I wrote for an extremely boring class. Somehow the karma never came back on that one. (I also never had “me” in a class.)

I used to teach, a couple of incarnations ago. My all-time favorite comment was “She drinks a lot of Diet Coke and sometimes her jokes are really weird.”


I know my mother’s received comments telling her she should “change her accent”. She hates that.

A friend of mine in college told me that she and her classmates really let one particularly awful science professor have it even it came to evals. She described her comment as beginning “We have many nicknames for Dr. X. Some of us call him ‘Hitler’. Others, simply ‘Satan’.”

When filling out my very last eval of my senior year I was really tempted to write something silly, like “Dr. Y is the total hottie of the philosophy department!”, but I managed to restrain myself. (Even though it was true.)

I taught a range of biology and related classes at a medium-sized University and a community college. Intro and upper level lectures and labs for bio majors and nursing students (generally smallish-sized classes) and a large auditorium lecture for non-science majors.

I always enjoyed reading my evals. Whether they be good, bad, indifferent, or wacked-out-weird. Regretfully, I don’t remember the specifics of any of the really interesting ones, but I do recall that a few really made me feel that what I was doing was worthwhile. Some of the criticisms were constructive, and well, some were not.

I also had good comments on my ties and on my smile. :slight_smile:

The last time I had any was quite a while ago; colleges vary in the area of distributing and counting evals. Anyway…I remember that any student who had gotten a low grade because they failed to turn in work or didn’t show up very often invariably gave ME a low score.

Sometimes I go and look at the rate-a-prof websites just for kicks. I have to tell you, though: we profs will often post nice things about our colleagues just to offset the students’ pissing and moaning. :wink:

Once in a while, yes. Many thoughtful students have made comments along the lines of “Why this book and not that one?” or “What if we did this with the text instead?” Such comments show me that the student is thinking about not only what they’re being taught, but how they’re being taught it. Those kinds of well thought-out evals tend to be pretty useful.

All the time. Contradictory stuff like “The readings were too easy, except when they were too hard” pop up, and really bizarro stuff does too: I taught a course all about monsters and their importance in our culture and a student wrote something like “All of the readings had to do with monsters; it’s almost like that was supposed to be the theme of the class or something.” Way to pay attention, Einstein.

My favorite, though, wasn’t one of mine: a colleague had a student complain about the length of his hair; apparently he didn’t find long hair on a man to be acceptable.

Every single set of evals (so every class, every quarter). “Boring as hell”–OK, so what should I be doing differently to liven things up?

You are defintely a rarity, then; I wish I had more students like you. My evals have a LOT of “great teacher” or “good class.” OK, a bit of ego-stroking is fine, but WHAT did you like (so that I can be sure to do it again)?

See for yourself: go to and take a look. :slight_smile:

I just looked up my alma mater, and found that “Dr. Y” of the Philosophy department has been given the “hottie” chili pepper. Guess I’m not the only one who thought so!

Reading the comments for Dr. Y, I saw something funny. One in 2003 said (paraphrased) “I thought in a philosophy class we’d get to debate our personal opinions. Instead we just had to regurgitate information from the assigned texts!” A year later, someone else posted (also paraphrased) “I thought in a philosophy class we’d be taking an indepth look at the works of different philosophers, not debating personal opinions. Dr. Y needs to tell people when to shut up!”

I guess sometimes you just can’t win.

As a prof (math and stat), I must have had over a thousand student evaluations over the years. In the beginning, I paid a lot of attention to them and they did help me improve – don’t stand in front of what you’ve written on the board, speak more clearly, provide more feedback on how the students are doing, etc. Over the years, though, the comments have gotten fairly repetitive and innocuous – good class, lousy book, tests too hard, tests were tricky, etc. By far, the most gratifying comments have come from students who entered the class with lots of apprehension and finished with a feeling that they’ve actually learned something. There was a period in my past when I was very perplexed by why I would be receiving some scathing comments and glowing compliments from different students in the same class. After all, they heard the same lectures, assigned the same course work, and took the same exams. Then I realized :smack: that student evaluations are also based on personal feelings and individual performances. Blaming the instructor is an easy out. Also, due to personalities or styles, some students just take a dislike to you and nothing can change their minds, certainly not in the few months of a course. Nowadays, I just quickly skim my evals because I don’t expect to find anything new anymore.

This was extremely common for me. Many times for the same class. “Do more X.” “Do less X.” Always without a reason for a suggestion, which would be far more helpful.

I found that too when I was a TA. I had two sections of a lab course, and it had worked out that one section was filled with all the keeners and the other one was full of slackers (as an aside, I also filled in for the TA in the third section a couple of times, and that one had all the average students). When I got my evaluation back, I found that the keeners loved me and the slackers hated me - probably because I was the hard marker out of the TAs for that class. I don’t remember any specifics from the comments though. I don’t think there was anything really remarkable from either end of the spectrum.

I was a TA for a human evolution class at UC Santa Cruz. The professor received an eval. which she shared with all of us via email. I wish I remembered the exact wording because it was hilarious but the gist of it was the student felt the course focused too much* on heterosexual reproduction.

In the email the professor had this wonderful reply: “I daresay that with one potential exception 2000 years ago, the story of evolution is the story heterosexual reproduction!”

Now I know why I’m always the last one to finish filling out the evaluation: because no one else does. I always try to have something of substance in there, and I’ve figured that I should also start throwing in compliments, while strange, they would be appropriate. And who doesn’t like compliments?

Thanks for the site, usually I go to . Those are more student evaluations about a prof’s rep, rather than what students tell professors. Even the time(s) I’ve done poorly, I didn’t say the teacher necessarily did a bad job, but what I thought would have helped me more. I have also noticed that by the end of the year, the more disgruntled students in a class will just say eff this, and leave without filling out the evaluation.

Actually, as a recent TA, my first batch of student evals will be coming in soon, so I’m definitely anxious to see how I’m doing in the class. It’s through my coordinator rather than a formal department thing, so fortunately the comments won’t be held against me. I just wish there was some way there was correlation between class scores and their comments so I could know which to throw out (ie, if an A student says I’m making mistakes, I’m a hell of a lot more likely to listen to some D- slacker).