It’s well known that academics tend to overemphasize the negative in teaching evaluations. Despite the oft-heard good advice to throw out the outliers, the majority of us seem to fixate on the harsher comments. I’m no exception — I always find teaching evaluations somehow inherently upsetting, even though they’ve always been favorable overall.
Why is this? What is it about teaching evaluations that gets to so many of us? It can’t only be the disproportionate emphasis put on evaluations in many contingent employment situations, though it is surely partly that (or the memory of that) — tenured full professors often feel the same way. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that the only people who don’t feel this way at all are those who have decided to stop paying attention to teaching evaluations altogether.
Any thoughts, readers?