Odd Student Feedback

Reading student evaluations is never a fun process for me. I am, by nature, someone who shakes off positive feedback in order to focus like a hawk on anything negative (of which there are, thankfully, usually not many).

This weekend I was going over my course evaluations from this past fall. For the most part, the comments from the students were glowing but unspecific. “Great teacher.” “Enthusiastic.” “Liked his unique style.” “Awesome professor.” Etc. There were the usual complaints about “too early in the morning,” of course, which don’t really reflect on me, and the one negative about me personally was not — I don’t think — serious: “Dr. Livingston’s glare off of his bald head really makes it difficult to concentrate.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

But then I wondered if perhaps they just weren’t being forthcoming in their negative feelings. The evaluations are anonymous, but maybe they nevertheless worried about being honest in such a forum. So, I checked out ratemyprofessors.com, which is always a hotbed of malcontent.

Nothing much there, I was surprised to see. And the one recent comment that was there was this:

100% MAN. This guy is the epitome of what a professor should be. He insults you, proves you wrong, will throw a war axe at you, but will never lead you astray. An excellent teacher overall. Show up to class, read the text, and have a good thesis and you’ll not only get a B – A but you’ll learn something too.

I’m slightly annoyed by the implication that it’s so easy to get a good grade — though, frankly, “have a good thesis” is not nearly as simple as it sounds — but mostly I’m heartened by the comment, which strikes me as fair in its details. That said, I’m still trying to analyze exactly what that “100% MAN” is supposed to mean — and what on earth it has to do with my teaching.

11 Comments

  1. You are totally 100% man. No question about that.

  2. Sherry Livingston

    Perhaps it means something like “If I had to grade this professor, I’d give him 100%, man!” But I’ll not comment on the manliness of your colleagues…. 🙂

  3. A missing comma … interesting theory, Sherry.

    Unfortunately, that interpretation would mean that I didn’t beat this particular student over the head enough about the infinite multiplicity of commas that are available for use.

  4. Maybe it’s “100% man” as in tough, doesn’t beat around the bush, tells you how it is, doesn’t sugar-coat anything, basically the crude, stereotypical, rarely correct description of what a real manly man is like.

    “Real men don’t eat quiche.”

    As for students not always being honest in evaluations, or more importantly being vague, there could be a myriad of reasons for it. At the University I work at we have had a few incidents where the department secretary did not retype the evaluations instead he/she just photocopied them and handed them to the teacher. A little matching up of handwriting samples and some students ended up getting confronted by the professors, which actually is pretty bad if you have that prof again. It basically caused a campus wide fear of putting anything negative on an evaluation. Most people are more inclined to write about negative aspects rather than positive ones. The other problem is the evaluations are given at the very end of the last class period so most students are in a rush to get the heck out of there. Vague works when one is in a hurry. Last but not least are the lazy and or don’t really care about evaluations theory. If students don’t believe their opinions and feelings actually have an impact, they seem to be less likely to actually spend any time writing anything more than “he was ok” or “he sucked”.

    *Sorry for any spelling, grammar, or general errors on this response, I’m exhausted and should be sleeping instead of reading/responding to blogs.*

  5. Out of total curiosity I asked some of the students that work in my building how they interpret the “100% MAN” bit since the write ups on rate my prof are intended for other students I figured another student could interpret it much better. The unanimous conclusion seems to be that it is a grade for you. Basically the students here interpret it as it meaning top notch, A+ professor, they “totally dig your teaching style.” Apparently I still had a puzzling look on my face so one of the guys tried ever so politely to reword it in terms he thought I would understand and said “Duh-UDE one-HUN-dred per-CENT”; I asked if he was stoned afterward. Not sure if putting “dude” before it makes more sense to anyone, but it seems the point being made was basically awesome, totally gnarly teaching dude (figured I continue with the whole Fast Times at Ridgemont High speak), or at least that is what the students here interpreted that rating to mean.

    Also the guys I questioned said based on that review they would sign up for your class. That’s a pretty high compliment from a bunch of math and science nerds that hate taking any humanities courses.

  6. As others have suggested the whole thing is a very high compliment relative to all aspects of your teaching–not just style but also caring, understanding, and being fair. A hearty CONGRATULATIONS.

  7. Thanks, folks. Really, though, I’m still just fascinated by trying to parse that odd “man” statement. It seems to be good, whatever it is, but I sure wish I could ask the reviewer just what was really meant!

    (Yes, this is what my mind gets caught up in.)

  8. Maybe they think you’re really hot.

  9. see, they want to woo you.

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