Getting my students to do my course evaluation

I’ve been a tired-looking non-threatening person for long enough that I’m used to being judged by the people around me. I got pretty used to the flinch that comes any time someone noticed the dead rings beneath my eyes, and I could see them wondering if I was either exhausted, wearing makeup in a really strange way, or genuinely hurt. But now it’s time to be professionally judged. It’s approaching the end of the semester, so I’ve started getting all the fun email reminders that I need to kindly entreat my students to actually check their email, find the link the university has sent them about 6 times by now, and then judge the hell out of me.

I’ve had too many students give me blank, confused stares when I ask them if they got my email

My problem is not the evaluations themselves. I actually like reading everything they’ve got to say, and usually, they write some funny, weird stuff because that’s what I tell them to do if they can’t think of anything else–stick it to the bureaucrats who evaluate the university by telling them you wish the class had more tigers. My problem isn’t the evaluations, it’s getting my students to actually do them. I’ve never had the opportunity to persuade a brick wall to dance, but I feel like it’s comparable to asking students to complete their course evals. I’ve tried offering extra credit, treats, and a day of just listening to music and watching videos. Nothing worked. I still had at least 4 students every semester that didn’t do it. If the job search doesn’t go well, then this might be my last semester teaching composition, so I want a perfect score to close it out. These are my ideas for how I might do that.

Better Bribery
I’m not a wealthy person. My travel mug came from a lost and found, and I think I’m actually pretty close to getting my mail forwarded to Goodwill because it’s honestly more likely I’ll be in the kitchen section there than at home. I’ve never been what anyone would call “comfortable” or even “doing alright,” but I do see the merit and necessity of bribery. I think if I offer up the right reward, my students might actually get all their course evals done. But then I have to wonder: what is both affordable to me and valuable to them? School supplies? Food? Drugs? Actually, I get my pens from the lost and found too. And I often end up eating the same noodle food-substitute they do. And my drug supply is limited to expired cold medicine, extra strength ibuprofen, and some prescription stuff that won’t get anyone high but keeps me from hating myself. Then what do I have to offer them? Maybe it’s not a matter of giving them something but taking it away. They love it when I cancel, but I almost never do it. I was already planning on making the last day of class optional. What if I just tell them the last day is free attendance only if they all do their course evals? Lies, that’s what I’ll use to bribe them.

Exactly what my personal philosophy would be if I were a better person

Dropping a Score
I’ve had teachers offer to drop a low score if everyone pulled something incredible off. Typically, the teacher would offer this, and suddenly the chaotic free market of the classroom would become a strong socialist workforce in which every student worked for the good of themselves and their fellows. Could I do that? Could I offer to drop one of the little essays they did at the beginning, the ones everyone did poorly on because they underestimated just how crazy I am. Or I could take this a step further. I could offer to drop the students themselves. If the whole class finishes their course evals, then we turn into a reality tv style situation where students get to vote each other off the island.

Sorry, Gavin, they voted you off and we don’t have a boat so into the crater you go or you lose participation points

The Unthinkable
Something happens toward the end of every class I’ve taught, and I don’t really know how to feel about it, but I’ve been resistant to it so far. I’m pretty informal with my students because I can generally rely on my relentless enthusiasm for writing and rhetoric to communicate to them who the teacher is better than steadfast formality ever could. However, I’ve noticed that informality tends to communicate something to my students that I don’t actually want. They want to be my friend. This usually manifests as them asking me to add them on Facebook or Instagram or any of the myriad social media I don’t actually have. This semester a student actually asked me to party with them, but when I said no, they were thoughtful enough to clarify that I wouldn’t have to drink because “we could just get high.” I made sure they knew there wasn’t a chance of that happening and that I and every other me in every other parallel reality was actually busy that day, and quite boring to party with anyway. I won’t party with my students, whether they’re past or current, but I have another option. An unthinkable option, something I’ve resisted telling them for months. I could tell them where to find me. I’m a pretty reclusive person, but I do go out to a few tea shops like clockwork. I am almost always at one of them in the morning a few days a week, and so far no students have found me, but I could invite them. I could tell them where to find me if they actually just wanted to sit and chat. I could give them my sanctuary if it means getting all of them to just fill out their damn evaluations. It’s a trade: tell me if you thought I was decently useful and I’ll give you one of my most precious places.

But I will die screaming before I give up my table by the electrical outlets

Maybe one of these will work. Maybe they won’t, but I’m going to do whatever I need to do to get that 100 percent response rate, even if it means lying, turning the class into a game show, or trading in my safe places.

10 Replies to “Getting my students to do my course evaluation”

  1. What about carrot AND stick: Any student that completes the eval by the 3rd class from the end gets their lowest score dropped. Anyone that fails to do so, gets an extra (heavily weighted, and emotionally and mentally cumbersome) assignment. Then give the students that screw up and fail to get it in by the 3rd to last class one last chance – get the evaluation done before the next class, or submit their terribly oppressive assignment. Also, what about public shaming? If everyone can get it in by the 3rd to last class, they get some kind of fun class – or a free class period to work on whatever is grinding them down in the lead up to finals. Then call out the names of those that failed to complete the eval in the days leading up to the deadline. Those are my best efforts. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, I think I liked this mixed approach. What about going a step further: the carrot as the stick. Anyone who gets it in by the 3rd class before the end gets 2 cupcakes, one to eat and one to hurl at a student who doesn’t have it done.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Try peer and public shaming. Give them a reward if and only if the class reaches 100% by a certain date then give them updated percentages as you get closer to the date. I don’t know if you can see the names of the people who have taken it or not, but if you can put those people on blast.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have them email me proof that they’ve done it. Kind of like they’ve kidnapped my reputation and I’m asking for proof of life.

      I might experiment with something like this, but the thought of giving actual, noticeable extra credit is so unfamiliar to me. I give very, very little extra credit out

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I did that my first semester, and the only students that didn’t turn it in ended up being the ones absent that day. But it also felt weird to be standing there while they evaluating me, kind of like seeing your teacher grade your paper.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have been giving teacher evaluations to my students at the end of each year since I began teaching (my own, not something the school requires because they don’t do that in middle school) and have always been in the room when the kids filled them out as it is generally a bad idea to leave a classroom full of 10- to 14-year-olds to their own devices for very long. I know just what you mean.

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