Episode 14 | How to Handle Negative Course Evaluations

Sad robot

This robot received some very negative course evals.

Receiving a batch of negative course evals can be a true bummer. If this happened to you, hang in there. I've been there before, and I know how discouraging it can be. 

In this episode, I'm here to remind you that it's important to read the evaluations for things you can learn or do differently next time, and then to let go of any upset you might feel about them and move on with your life. 

Here are a few ideas to try:

  1. Be sure to reflect on your own experience with the course before you read your evals. Write down what went well and where you'd like to improve for next time & put it somewhere where you'll see it before you next teach this class.
  2. Now review your feedback. Preface each comment with "One student felt that..."
  3. Look for recurring themes. You don't necessarily need to change these things, but you may choose to change how you frame them. For example, if a theme is that the class is "too hard," the next time you teach it you might teach explicitly from the perspective that "this class is hard, and I'm here to help you succeed." 
  4. Write down two or three things you might do differently next time based on student feedback, and add that to what you wrote from #1. 

Remember that student feedback does not necessarily reflect how much they learned from the course. Do the best you can to learn from it, and don't get too discouraged. If you do one or two things better each time you teach the course, it will get more awesome as time goes on.

A few extra tips:

  • Keep an "I love you" folder in your email for any/all comments relating to what a good job you do at work. Read the messages there as needed after poor reviews.
  • Head off problems by doing an informal mid-term survey and addressing any issues immediately. Here is a podcast episode I put out earlier this year about mid-term surveys, including a sample mid-term survey that you're welcome to copy.
  • This Teaching in Higher Ed episode has some lovely and personal reflections about how course evaluations can affect faculty
  • IDEA has some helpful suggestions of what you might try if you are getting low ratings in one particular area
  • More helpful resources from Vanderbilt  

Listen to Episode 14: How to Handle Negative Course Evaluations

Have a Tip for Dealing with Negative Course Evaluations? 

I'd love to hear it! Feel free to share any really horrible comments, too. Sometimes it helps to tell someone else. I can almost guarantee that I've heard worse.


Hi there. I'm Camille. I'm a professor at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology and pathophysiology. I'm also a licensed nutritionist and herbalist, specializing in fertility and reproductive health. Lastly but not leastly, I'm a mom, a gardener and a pretty horrible housekeeper.