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Five Things to Do With Evaluations Before the Summer Really Starts

Coffee-stained evaluationsAt most schools, faculty can’t see final evaluations until their grades are in, so the semester is well-and-truly over by the time they become available. And in previous ProfHacker posts on evaluations, I think we’ve established that there are basically three main schools of thought on what to do with them: the (deprecated) “throw ‘em out” mindset; the “review them now while the course is fresh” approach; and the “save them until the next time you teach the course” view.

Before the summer humidity and/or heat wholly occludes the spring semester, here are five things you should consider doing with your evaluations:

  • Especially if you are a grad student, postdoc, adjunct, or untenured faculty member, but also if you can still be promoted or if you are subject to posttenure review, make sure you are aware of your university’s policy about evaluations. Do you need to preserve the originals? Are digital copies ok? Who “owns” the evaluations? For example, does the department, dean, provost, or other office keep them, or do you have to secure all that paper?
  • If you are applying for jobs, for renewal, for promotion, or for tenure in the fall, then preparing for that process trumps everything else. Go through your evaluations *now*, in order to make sure they’re consistent with your expectations about your teaching, to find interesting student comments about your teaching, and to be sure there’s nothing there that needs to be explained away. Start incorporating the results from this semester’s (and the fall’s, if applicable) into your application letter or promotion/tenure file.
  • If you are the sort who goes through their evaluations immediately, then be sure to take 2 steps: first, that, after you look at ‘em, you put them with the rest of your teaching stuff. For example, if you take your evaluations home, the better to review them over a stiff drink, then be sure to get them back to campus. The second step is to make sure to write down the implications of these evaluations for future classes. After the affective wave has passed–”what do you know? they did/didn’t really hate me!”–you want to be sure to capture any useful data now, without having to re-review the evaluations later.
  • If you are the sort to postpone looking at evaluations until the next time you teach a class, then the most important thing to do is to know where they are. If you’ve got a box of promotion and tenure materials, for example, make sure they end up there. The second thing to do is to write a paragraph about how you thought the class went. It will help refresh your memory when you go back and review the evaluations later on.
  • Finally, whenever you look at your evaluations, you might think about comparing them against online sources such as RateMyProfessors.com. If there’s a substantial disconnect between what people are saying about you online and what they’re saying about you in the formal evaluation process, you need to know about that. (I hope it’s not a surprise that other people look at your RMP evals! If you’re applying for something teaching-related, and there’s a gap between what you’re saying and what online sources are saying . . . there may be a problem.)

What do you do with evaluations at the end of the year? Let us know in comments!

[Image by Flickr user David Silver / Creative Commons licensed]

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