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Course Evaluations Do Not Equal One's Worth

Rotter, Briana

Journal of Christian Nursing: April/June 2019 - Volume 36 - Issue 2 - p 126
doi: 10.1097/CNJ.0000000000000603
Department: Called to Teach
Free

Briana Rotter, DNP, RN, is an assistant professor at the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

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Wrapping up my first semester teaching as full-time faculty brought both joy and anxiety. I was proud of the hard work of the nursing students. It was an honor to witness seniors walk across the stage at graduation and know that I had been a part of their formation as professional nurses.

However, I had a great deal of anxiety about reading my first course evaluations. Many thoughts whirled in my head: Was I a good enough teacher? Did the students like me? Would my ratings be high enough? More than I'd like to admit, my self-esteem was wrapped up in my course evaluations.

I work at a wonderful institution that encourages various types of evaluation of teaching effectiveness. The first is peer-evaluation. These evaluations, done by faculty colleagues teaching at a same or higher level, are valued by educators. They can be useful in documenting for tenure and promotion that teaching standards are being met, as well as for improving teaching methods. But reading critical assessments of oneself and one's work can cause angst. There is concern that peers do not offer enough constructive feedback (Brickman, Gormally, & Martella, 2016). Perhaps this is because too many educators view evaluations as an estimation of self-worth, instead of utilizing them as a growth opportunity.

Student evaluations are another means of assessing teaching effectiveness. I was surprised that many other seasoned instructors and professors expressed dread at reading student course evaluations. They, too, seemed to be basing their self-worth on student feedback.

In contrast to peer evaluation, student feedback is not always viewed as helpful. Educators may feel that students do not know how to give constructive feedback or that their written suggestions do not provide actual examples of ways to improve teaching (Brickman et al., 2016). I feared that student course evaluations would be a personal attack, rather than a way to gain constructive feedback to make improvements.

I was quickly convicted of my self-absorbed attitude. While praying and meditating, I saw, “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).

After taking the focus off myself and meditating on God's Word, I was able to shift my mindset. I was reminded that I am God's masterpiece and that he has called me to teach. My self-worth comes from God, not my course evaluation data. Because I know that I am God's masterpiece, I could begin to look at course evaluations through a different lens. I started to focus on how these course evaluations might help me to improve my teaching methods to better serve my students. Golding and Adam (2016) found that teachers who were able to utilize student feedback from course evaluations took a reflective approach. These teachers asked, “How can I improve?” regardless of how good or bad the evaluation was. Rather than viewing their results as good enough, the teachers were willing to adapt and change their methods to improve student learning (Golding & Adam). I am always amazed how God can use his followers when they shift the focus from themselves to the needs of others. “Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NLT).

I am God's masterpiece. I am also a work in progress. Even though course evaluations are summative, I can view the evaluations as formative (Golding & Adam, 2016). Moving forward, I've decided to use this information to make improvements in my teaching methods and course design. No longer will I allow course evaluations to have the final ruling on my worth and value. God has the final say; his Word states that I am His masterpiece! Instead, I can focus on how to better serve the needs of the students I have the privilege to teach.

Brickman P., Gormally C., Martella A. M. (2016). Making the grade: Using instructional feedback and evaluation to inspire evidence-based teaching. CBE Life Sciences Education, 15(4), 1–14. doi:10.1187/cbe.15-12-0249
Golding C., Adam L. (2016). Evaluate to improve: Useful approaches to student evaluation. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(1), 1–14. doi:10.1080/02602938.2014.976810
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