A conversation with a colleague today about Teaching Evaluations made me wonder if I had scratched the dark underbelly of college-level teaching or whether I was just desperate to do another poll on a strange topic. Or both. As you may have guessed, I have a question for my readers who teach:
Do you change anything about your teaching behavior in the few classes that remain after teaching evaluations have been completed for your class?
Or, at the very least, do you feel a sense of relief after evaluations are done because you know that you can make innocent mistakes and not pay the same penalty for them? In fact, the topic came up when my colleague said that he didn't want to do online evaluations because the online evaluation period lasted too long and didn't give him those last few post-evaluation classes in which he could relax more as he taught.
After an admittedly shockingly brief investigation, I have determined that in the apres-evaluation near-end-of-semester time, some of my colleagues don't feel quite the same compulsion to answer annoying questions like "What is going to be on the test?" or "Are you going to ask anything from the classes in the week before Spring Break?" My colleagues report that they answer these questions, but perhaps not as nicely or completely as before the evaluations are done. Smiling may become more optional when answering such questions apres-evaluation. Having teaching evaluations completed can be rather freeing, but not in any sinister way.
What this question really gets at is the extent to which our behavior is governed by the looming prospect of teaching evaluations. Does the fact of teaching evaluations make (some of us) nicer? Is that a good thing?
I am not dealing with the issue of whether teaching evaluations make us better teachers by giving us constructive feedback or biting criticism, albeit too late to change anything to help a particular class (e.g. "I would have gotten more out of the class if you didn't just read endless text slides in a monotone every single class"; "You suck", etc.).
No, I am asking whether the prospect of teaching evaluations affects professorial behavior when interacting with students. Hence the question: Are you more patient, kind, and/or polite than you might otherwise be because you don't want to be slain in your evaluations for being cranky and terse with students, even if you are being completely insincere? And: Does your niceness level decrease, even if ever so slightly, after evaluations are done?
6 months ago