I am giving a master course with another colleague, but since I am more experienced in the subject, I took the most difficult lectures.

My lectures contain a lot of mathematical equations and require deep knowledge in algebra. I tried to make them as easy as possible and even made extra videos to explain parts which I felt were difficult. I checked all available lectures to make sure I explain well. Therefore, I find my lectures among the most intuitive and informative ones.

It seems that my students (or most of them) are not that good in mathematics and found the lectures very difficult. They are rating my lectures with very bad scores although I made a lot of effort in these lectures (I have been teaching this subject for several years) this year as they are online. I see my colleagues just recording their old lectures.

As a lecturer, I try to transfer knowledge, so satisfying my students is my priority. However, I feel that my efforts were not acknowledged and I have lost motivation to prepare good lectures. I am planning to simply record lectures and read the slides as most of the lecturers at my university are doing.

Did anyone go through this? Also, how informative is this evaluation to me? In other words, how credible is it to validate if there is really an issue with my lectures or if it is just a biased opinion?


It seems that the students are comparing my lectures and the lectures of my colleague with whom I am sharing the course. I assume they think the difficulty of the lectures is related to the lecturer and not the topic.

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    Good to see that you care about teaching; many academics just simply do not care. I think your problem could be the prerequisite of your subject. Another on-going challenge is that you are teaching mathematics. Many (or most) students are not taught maths properly, so they absolutely hate it no matter how you sugar coat it. If you cannot change the pre-requisite, then you need to aim lower. Start from their level and built it up. This may mean the students will never get to where you want them to be. Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 20:34
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    Have you asked for specific feedback?
    – user111388
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 20:57
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    @Prof.SantaClaus: the problem is often not the prereq but that the students have been barely passing each prereq, without gaining any effective knowledge. Then you find yourself trying to teach calculus to people who don't know what a function is, don't know what the graph of a function is, cannot do any algebraic manipulation, think that the only solution of x^2=x is x=1 and that sqrt{x^2}=x; they have zero familiarity with trigonometric functions, and they don't know that 3/2 and 1.5 are the same number; and, of course, addition of fractions is out of the question. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 12:35
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    Curious what the subject is, exactly. You say it requires, " deep knowledge in Algebra". Do you mean school (high school) algebra? Abstract algebra? Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 15:22
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    With all the positive feedback around here, I'd like to give a caveat: we don't know if your class is taught well. I feel there is to much bias to comforting you in the answers. I do know teachers that give their best and, well, it still isn't good. Now please note, I'm not saying this is the case here. But you should ask for honest feedback someone who can actually judge your class.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 21:49

15 Answers 15


Student feedback can sometime be a difficult thing for a teacher, and it is sometimes inappropriate that teaching quality is measured in terms of student feedback.

Let me explain this by means of anecdotes. Imagine a colleague who is a good performer, much as a stand-up comedy act. They give good jokes, tell stories, show interesting films. How would many students rate them? Quite a few students might give them a good rating on the basis that they had a good time. However ask them in five or ten years time what they got out of that class, and they might remember one of the jokes or stories.

Now imagine a colleague who works their class. Makes them do test and examples. Makes them go places that makes them think, makes their brains ache from the thinking they had to do. It is possible that quite a few students might really give some negative feedback that this was a class they did not enjoy and might have liked to be changed. However, ask some of these students in five or ten years what they got out of that class and it might surprise you. It might be that they remember what they were taught and use it in their profession.

Good teaching can be preparation for the future and sometimes students can only discover that when they reach their own futures. I started to find this out when I would get unexpected emails saying "remember me". "I didn't believe you when you taught me that thing, and now I see that lesson playing out in front of my eyes every day. Thank You."

We have to balance those two aspects of teaching. We have to give them something for their now and something for their future. In fact something for our future and our grand-children's future, because that is what we build by good teaching.

As has been said by others: if you care, you will find ways to improve. You are doing the right things. Keep going. Best of luck.

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    "Ask them [the students] in five or ten years" is, in my opinion, the right way to evaluate teachers, but of course it may be difficult to find the students and get their answers long after they've left the university. My department at least asks them as they're about to graduate. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 0:07
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    It's also worth remembering that most students are adults and can also understand the difference between a jokester that doesn't teach them anything and someone who gives them useful knowledge and effectively explains why behind the knowledge. Let's remember this isn't 5 year olds we're talking about. At my organization the student grading roughly matches the perception of effectiveness and the most easy going teachers do not hold best student grades.
    – Mavrik
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 13:17
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    @Mavrik In the past, there were societies where people were not considered to be "adult" until they were 50 years old. Changing the age threshold to 21 (or 18, or 16) hasn't changed human behaviour much.
    – alephzero
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 15:06
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    This really doesn't change the fact that treating a whole generation of educated adults, who voluntarily enrolled into higher education, as children is horriblty condescending.
    – Mavrik
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 17:35
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    This answer comes across incredibly patronizingly. Student reviews are not just based on popularity like this answer implies
    – user74671
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 15:51

I'm aware of a variant of this: the same course is given by two different instructors in back to back terms; one of the instructor is "hard" and tenured, the other is "soft" and a sessional. Over the years the students have increasingly avoided the class of one to the benefit of the other.

Maybe this quote from Daniel Webster is slightly messianic, but nevertheless:

I should indeed like to please you; but I prefer to save you, what ever be your attitude toward me.

In the end, you should do what you think is best. You should still reflect on the difficulty of your lectures (is it really necessary?) but it's a pretty universal observation that students disproportionately prefer "softer" instructors simply because of the short term workload differential. Regrettably many students (and their parents) are more interested in getting a degree than getting an education.

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    For completeness: the students favored the softer one?
    – Mayou36
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 12:40
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    @Mayou36 yes. The scheduling favours the regular faculty member but despite this students naturally gravitate to the “softer” instructor. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 15:18
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    @Mavrik That’s true literally - if there is 0 student in the class you cannot teach anything useful - but I would challenge this in general. An instructor could teach nothing and give high grades, and be better liked than one who would shy away from doing this. Such a situation happened in a developing country (because of low salaries): the instructor had another better paying job and just didn’t show up at the lectures yet gave every student A+. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 15:24
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    I think the point raised is rather another (or I bring that up now): the amount and difficulty taught and what is received by the students is a function with a maximum somewhere. Teaching simple, slow won't make the student remember a lot. However, teaching too hard things too fast won't make them learn a lot either. The optimum is somewhere in between. So you can simply overshoot as well! Like with sports: use to light weights and you won't train, use to heavy weights and you can't even do a single exercise. The right amount of difficult is the best teacher.
    – Mayou36
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 16:59
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    @Mavrik I agree in some cases but teaching evaluation is dependent on lots of other factors as well. I’m not suggesting that kind=“soft” or unkind=“hard”, simply observing that students (with exceptions) prefer good marks over pretty much anything else. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 18:31

You say:

My lectures contain a lot of mathematical equations and require deep knowledge in Algebra. I tried to make them as easy as possible and even made extra videos to explain parts which I felt were difficult. I checked all available lectures to make sure I explain well. Therefore, I find my lectures among the most intuitive and informative ones.

You put a lot of effort in, but is it effective? The problem is that you are trying to determine whether the material is hard before, and after, watching your lectures. But you already know this material thoroughly, and have lots of subconscious background knowledge. It's impossible for you to truly judge your work as it'll be seen through the eyes of student for whom it is all new.

You also say:

Did anyone go through this? Also, how informative is this evaluation to me? In other words, how credible is it to validate if there is really an issue with my lectures or if it is just a biased opinion?

I'd say it's credible, but not informative. The students are having difficulty with your lectures, they're probably honest about that. They haven't offered very useful feedback for you to improve however.

I think you can kill two birds with one stone here. Involve your students in improving your lectures. Every lecture, contact some of the students to review the lecture. Assure them that they can speak freely and that you're intererested in their detailed feedback. Explain to them where you want to go, and ask them what they would need to get there. Then use that feedback for the next lecture. This should accomplish two things: (1) you get much better estimates of what is hard for them and where they need more help, and (2) the students feel involved in the quality of the lectures, which is very likely to boost their reviews.

This does increase your upfront workload, at least initially, because you can't pre-record all your lectures at the start of the semester anymore. However, it will also allow you to target your efforts more effectively.

Although the other answers aren't wrong, I think they're a bit too negative about students and feedback. I think there's a substantial share of students that do want to learn a lot, and that get quite enthusiastic and helpful if you involve them. Not all of them, but enough to make a difference.

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    Yes! This (in a much less comprehensive manner with worse examples) is what I wanted to write before I got to your answer. :)
    – mishan
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 17:20
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    I'd use an anonymous online form for feedback instead of contacting "some" of the students (which ones? why them?) or "assuring them that they can speak freely": this is vague and I am not sure what this is supposed to imply (that you won't grade them differently? IMO you can't promise you won't have biases).
    – coredump
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 9:46
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    I think having an actual face to face (well, over Skype or something) dialogue is more useful. It doesn't have to be about feedback on the course alone. In my experience as TA and student in the past year, 15-30m one on one talks with students have been extremely valuable. You can't really predict what topics will come up. Usually the students have at least some issue they need help with that wasn't originally on the agenda, but which might have never come to light otherwise.
    – ObscureOwl
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 10:41

Student perceptions are perfectly credible viewed from their own perspective. But they may not have universal validity.

Yes, you are suffering from the comparison with the other instructor based on the difference in difficulty of the material as perceived by the students. I suspect the exercises you give are also harder for them. Hopefully others will understand that such a thing is natural and that students can confuse such things as you note in your edit.

But teaching is about student learning and that takes hard work on their part, which they don't always recognize.

You didn't ask for a suggestion, but I'd recommend that you mix up the material a bit more. Your colleague would probably also benefit from the challenge of teaching harder material. You can assist them in this, of course.

But I agree with Prof. Santa Claus that you are doing well to care about teaching and the students. You might mention the issue to the department head to give them some foreknowledge of what is going on.


There is plentiful research to show that student evaluations are not a good way to measure the quality of teaching. See for example Clayson, 2008. That doesn't mean they are completely useless however. I am lucky that my department doesn't use teaching evals in our annual appraisal. I use evals in two ways: I look to explain a large difference in scores between years. Did something go wrong/right this year? Did I substantially change the material this year? If I'd made the material harder, I wouldn't neccessary worry about a drop in score, but if the score dropped when I hadn't then it might be worth investigating.

I also tend to look at the free-text feedback to find specific and actionable feedback. For example, when I started teach stats 101, I got a lot of feedback from student saying they didn't understand why it was relevant to their biology degrees, so I changed the program to spend longer talking about why it was important, and spent some time showing how each example was relevant to real biological problems.


how informative is this evaluation to me?

The information you got is that students think your lectures are "difficult" and "bad." This is not informative.

I suspect your real question is: "How do I get useful student feedback?" which is a very broad question.

Some starting points are:

  1. Identify learning objectives.
  2. Form a hypothesis about how students achieve the objectives.
  3. Ask students questions that test the hypothesis.
  4. Change your teaching based on the results.

You should also take care to:

  • Assess students' abilities before you teach them. This avoids the situation where it turns out at the end that students were "bad at math."
  • Do more than "knowledge transfer." Have students practice learning objectives. At the university level, some of those objectives should be more than just "knowing."

There are a variety of places you can get formal training that will help you. If you do not have one locally, you might try http://cirtl.net/.

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    Its also important to take on board that some learning objectives may simply not be possible given where the majority of your students are starting. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 23:15
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    I propose that the student feedback saying the lectures “difficult” and “bad” are informative. They say that OP needs to make a change to his teaching style. This answer offers some good suggestions to do that however
    – user74671
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 16:00

Students are not perfect judges. They are not even impartial. In fact, they are often very, very biased!

  • Differing motivations. Perhaps they are interested in your course. Or perhaps they are merely satisfying requirements.
  • Grading. The higher the grade you give them, the more positive their response will be.
  • Lack of reference point. Students may not have a reference point for what constitutes a "good teacher" for the course.
  • Perception. If students feel like they've been given a better deal in some factor (e.g. final grade, amount learned, effort spent) than they would have otherwise, you might get a more positive response.

When performing (or presenting) to an audience, the content is not necessarily the most important thing. A magician that performs a simple card trick well might be more interesting and memorable than another magician that escapes from a straitjacket while hanging upside down over a bed of nails. It depends greatly upon the presentation and how it made the audience feel.

Perhaps simplified content is not enough to earn the love of an audience. (Without a reference point, they may not even be aware that it is simplified!) You also need to make yourself appear to be a good teacher. There are various ways you might go about communicating this. Some positive ways include: more interactive lectures, questions, discussions, greeting the audience, smiles and warmth.

Perhaps some of these views are a bit cynical, but we are dealing with humans after all. And humans are quite illogical.


It's probably a combination of the entire course being difficult and you taking the difficult topics. The students don't know your lectures are inherently tougher, so they assume you're worse at explaining things.

I'd do 2 things. Look at the previous courses. They may be weaker than you'd assume, or simply terrible. I remember a Computer Programming-II course where it took me a few weeks to learn their CS-I was "principles" and a few small programs, so I toned things down. Then I had a section that I couldn't reach at all -- turns out they'd never written a program in their CS-I or even seen the language. I had as much trouble with a 3rd "cadre" and later found out it was them -- every other instructor also found them very unmotivated.

I'd also check whether it was an elective or required. I've found electives tend to get more serious, motivated students and if they aren't happy, it's probably my fault. Then also how it was advertised. Maybe it sounded like a simple class (after an experience I've always wondered if students see College Algebra and think "oh, I had that in my Jr. High").

Second. I'd compare notes with the co-instructor. I've only co-taught where each has their own section. Swapping lectures seems especially difficult. The other instructor may be slowing down when students aren't understanding, covering less. There may be a slight mismatch of terms, style of examples... which the students are picking up on, making it seem like 2 separate courses.

With my each-their-own-section co-teaching we had hour-long weekly meetings. With alternate lectures I'd almost want to meet for a bit after each lecture "how'd it go, where did you leave off?"


Coming from an masters student perspective: I would agree with you and say that course evals are generally of little use (except when they are wayy below or above the median)

Indeed it's been proven that using methods that improve learning often makes students frustrated and confused while normal lectures make the students learn less but are more enjoyable, more familiar and students have also been brainwashed to think good lecture equal good class. Famous experiment with a video teaching students physics, many students, thanks to confirmation bias and only paying half attention, felt like they learned but learned the wrong things.

Do the same thing where an actor in the video gives the wrong explanation and is corrected the students will learn more but leave the classroom more frustrated and confused.

The best thing to do from a student eval perspective is to inflate your stats by being funny and lecturing well and yes, even making things easy.

You gotta remember the median students want an A not subject mastery. Though this isnt as bad as it sounds, because most of education is signaling anyway, so its not like by being funny and not maximizing the learning and whatnot your short changing students, quite the opposite.

Personally, I think the best teachers play to both types of students simultainously, which is of course, tricky.

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    "Indeed it's been proven that using methods that improve learning often makes students frustrated and confused while normal lectures make the students learn less but are more enjoyable". Who proved that? Is that some known pedagogy fact?
    – jDAQ
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 18:36
  • it appears to not exist. woopsies. I could swear that there was some meta-study that found that undergraduate students prefer passive learning to active learning, but I cannot find it, so it probably does not exist.
    – JCool
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 7:24

A few points in additiont to the existing answers:

since I am more experienced in the subject, I took the most difficult lectures.

IMHO in this particular situation, it may be good to tell the students beforehand that you are supposed to cover the "hard" topics. This may help them to differentiatiate topic from presentation of the topic.

IMHO the more specific feedback you ask, the easier to sort out general good/bad feelings from constructive feedback.
E.g. ask for examples of what was explained well and what wasn't and why (if possible), and do so timely (i.e. directly after each lecture).

I find my lectures among the most intuitive and informative ones.

I've also honed some explanations over time to be very concise and hopefully intuitive. However, I think that particular ways of explaining (mind models) may be intuitive for one group of learners but to others some other way may be more intuitive. I think it possible that at this point your lecture would gain more from adding alternative ways of explanation rather than from further honing of the way that is intuitive to you.

Unfortunately, finding such alternatives is not easy at all. I think you've already done a good step in this direction by looking at how your colleagues approach the topic. However, I've once heard a lecture by someone from math didactics who made some (to me) very important points. One of them was that she told us (an audience coming entirely from STEM fields) that we are likely very similar in which (maths) explanation approaches do make intuitive sense to us: we're very likely self-selected with a liking for e.g. mathematical thinking. So are teachers (of any field). However, the student population may not be, meaning that there may be groups of students who'd do better with other approaches.
I can personally confirm that as undergrads in chemistry we had a physical chemistry professor who came from physics and we decidedly had the impression that his explanations just didn't "click" as well with our chemist mind-set as they'd have done with physics undergrads. So this may happen already with rather closely related fields.

And I've gotten feedback in a somewhat similar situation where a student heard both me (chemist) and a physicist colleague on the same topic and told me that it was completely worth while since we took quite different approaches to the same topic and thus they learned a lot by now having more and different "links".
I may add that I also enjoy hearing colleagues' explainations for the same reason: there cannot be too many different links in knowledge.

Now, lecture schedules usually do not allow time for multiple explanations, but

  • Over here (Germany), courses usually do not follow one textbook, but students are referred to a a bunch of (text)books. When I was a student, we were encouraged to work with whatever textbook on the topic we found suitable for us (also the library typically had different textbooks available).
  • You could consider presenting a different approach when a student asks about a topic.
  • The math didiactician told us that one of their most valuable tools is asking students to write down (e.g. as homework) how they's explain the topic, or have them explain it to each other and take notes of this.

Somewhat related, I took the teacher training with the carpentries where I learned that well-designed multiple choice questions can be used to get a quick overview over existing misconceptions/misunderstandings. In contrast to the explain-to-each-other appoach, multiple choice can of course test only for misunderstandings you are aware of.


Some thoughts. First, you are concerned about your students' learning and also about your teaching. As mentioned in several comments this is clearly a positive thing and certainly not universal, if even at all common.

You ask to what extent students' feedback is credible. Student feedback clearly matters to you. Of course, sometimes student feedback is not the best evaluation of the courses they have been on. But an important question for you is this: would you prefer it if your students had these feelings or opinions about their learning experience and you knew nothing about it? Given the kind of teacher you appear to be, I think you might consider that a worse scenario.

A preliminary observation is that it seems that you might have been getting better feedback in previous years. You say that you have taught this material a few times. It seems that this year, after teaching went online, might be the first time that your feedback wasn't what you expected.

One question that might be useful is how your students' experience of your teaching has changed this year. There might be something different that you are doing now your lectures are online that you weren't doing before. It is more difficult to sense students' reactions when they aren't there live in front of you. Something very small that you are doing might be making all the difference in the wrong direction and also might be very easy to resolve, drastically improving students' experience.

One possibility (entirely speculatively) is that your lectures are less like lectures now. I mention this because you talk about extra videos that you've recorded, and it seems as though you might have changed your lectures somewhat due to their being online. One thought here is that many students joined up in the hope of actually attending lectures and seeing their lecturers face to face. In stark contrast with what they might normally appreciate, lectures that look and smell like lectures may make them feel more secure, and more as if they are receiving what they signed up for (in education-speak, they may have more 'face validity'). In a situation where students who are relying heavily on the internet can get, for example, a lot of quite good free video material online, some straight lectures directly from their lecturers might, in this new context, be novel and valued.

There are several answers here which rightly reassure you that student feedback can be both fickle and misguided. There are also answers that encourage you to mix the material up between you and your colleague. There are also, lastly, useful ideas about how to get more useful feedback from students. The latter are especially helpful. I would certainly take all of this on board. However, even if your students are fickle or misguided, I suspect that you would prefer to take that as a challenge, not as a fait accompli. My best advice would be to not take feedback too much to heart, but to keep adapting, reflecting and experimenting with your teaching styles and material and also to consider the changing needs of your groups of students and the contexts they find themselves in. It is difficult to do the latter if you never elicit any feedback from them.

I have no doubt you will get to where to want with your teaching and your students' learning. But I doubt that would be possible without feedback from your students (especially now that we don't get immediate low level feedback just from being in the same room as them).

One ancillary point. It's been suggested that students enjoy easy or merely entertaining lectures. As a director of studies, a teacher and a student counsellor I have found this to be completely untrue. Students greatly appreciate both cognitive challenge and real learning (and loathe being patronised by funny or sensational teachers who don't enable their learning). Of course, students cannot be cognitively challenged if they are completely lost or unable to understand the material at hand. It is always worth considering how to make ones teaching more engaging. Engaging teaching never prevented anybody from learning. Just ask Feynman.


To answer the question specifically I think the student feedback is valid and you should put it in context of your own evaluation of their learning. What you have learned is that they do not find your lectures helpful and find your teaching difficult to follow. If this is coupled with your students not doing well on assessments then it seems you did fail to teach them, plain and clear.

You mention the caveat that you think they disliked your lectures based on the algebra that you used to on them. I personally don’t think this demonstrates that your students arent prepared for the course but rather that you didnt use algebra in a clear manner. In my experience taking undergrad and graduate courses it is very easy to obfuscate the point of your teaching by wasting time doing algebra in front of them. This is simply fatiguing to follow and might not be the best way to teach.

Other answers suggest that the feedback wasnt helpful because they didnt give you suggestions to improve but I personally think that the student reviews do not serve that purpose , but instead give just an indication of how the students perceive the class. Then paired with the students objective performance in the class provide an indication of whether you failed or succeeded to effectively teach


Should they be able to do that maths?

In my uni course (electronic and electrical engineering), we had compulsory maths in the first and second years. In theory, this was supposed to teach us the maths skills we'd need for the rest of the course. In fact, no-one had told the maths lecturer what we'd need. The result was that basically the whole of second-year maths was 100% wasted effort with no application to our other modules; whilst two modules in the third year (modern control theory and electromagnetism) required matrix operations which we had never seen before, and which the lecturer did not have time to teach properly whilst also teaching the actual course content.

We all appreciated that the lecturers were in a situation not of their making. However on course feedback we all gave negative feedback on those modules, because the engineering department as an organisation had failed to teach in a way which allowed their students to learn properly.

If your students are having problems with this, I suspect there is a very high likelihood that you are in the same situation. Your first step should be talking to your students to find where they learnt how to do this maths. If in fact they never did, or if the teaching was not rigorous enough to allow them to succeed in your class, then you urgently need your department to review the teaching structure.


First, congratulations for caring about teaching.

My lectures contain a lot of mathematical equations and require deep knowledge in algebra.

You did not mention the topic of your lecture, but (and really, I am not trying to argue about something I do not know) do they really need to know that?

If they need because otherwise it is not possible to have the course (say - not knowing what a derivative is and explaining what velocity is in a physics course for physicists) then please just skip this answer.


My teaching experience

When doing my PhD in Physics I was giving lectures to students of biology. This was a course that was part of their curriculum (actually two: physics and biophysics).

The people who decided on the curriculum probably had not much contact with the real world outside of academia that will welcome these students once they leave the university - in practical terms, they will never ever need to understand how the Zeta function is used in some physical context. (They will never use the word Zeta while we are at it).

So I simplified it to the extreme. I went for very, very basic math in order for them to understand the core of what they need to understand. I lied (ok, simplified) many times so that they get a grasp of the topic. I suffered by telling things that are only rough approximations but at least they understood basic things.

Note that they would have never used the original content in life, at least now they can read their electricity bill.

I was very hard on exams, though - because if someone does not make the effort to understand the topics (not to learn them, to actually understand) at the basic level then there is no pity (they are either lazy or dumb. Or I may be a bad teacher).

They had usually good marks because they cared about understanding something they could understand.

My life after academia

I left academia after my PhD and went into industry. It is now 25 years and I am faced with math and physics again when helping my children.

I forgot everything in physics but is it is easy to get back on track because I had two teachers like you: they made me understand. The advanced stuff I had to pass an exam on looks like a miracle today, but the bases are there and I am a good teacher to my kids (because I understand what I am saying, and use the right level of abstraction).

To summarize

  • thanks for making the effort
  • make sure that what you are teaching is what they need to know
  • there is a real chance that they will see you as a great teacher if they are taught the things they actually need
  • some will tell stories about you 30 years from now

I would say that your experience is one of the most basic reasons why professors used to have tenures. Tenure was an acknowledgement that a professor is expert in its field and able to teach. With tenures becoming rarer and rarer, more lecturers are falling in the trap you found in. With universities caving in to student opinion, this may go horribly wrong in the future.

Myself, I do care about student opinion, because university makes me to think about it basically every day. I am successful and apparently highly respected by students, but still unsure whether I should be harder on them and care less about what they think of me.

This is not much of help in your current situation, I understand. My best advice would be to avoid such situations where students can directly compare you to other lecturers, as these comparisons can be highly unfair. There is also another point you may think about: how does self-selection bias influence student opinion about you? I have recent experience where there was a questionnaire sent out to the students about the quality of online lectures in time of COVID. The feedback was pretty bad, but there was only one student who submitted any kind of feedback! I have the option to do such survey myself, anonymously for students, and when half of them responded, the feedback was actually pretty good - they were satistfied with the lectures and did not even to bother to provide any kind of feedback to the University, when asked before.

So, think of this too - who is complaining, and whether they are representative sample of your student body.

EDIT: I am not sure why this is getting negative grades, so I will clarify that: It is university's job to employ good lecturers, and student's opinion should not have too much weight precisely because the dilemma described by the OP. Placing too much weight on student opinion is University's way of acknowledging that their committees who select professors are not doing their job and really puts University's administration in a bad light.

  • Based on what you are judging my experience? Why you link being tenure or professor to give good lectures and to ask questions. I think even if I am close to retirement, it is always good to improve the quality of teaching and ask questions. Btw, sometimes, my PhD students give better lectures than me and other tenures and professors.
    – Capsule
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 11:00
  • 1
    Based on your question. If you don't like honest answers, don't ask questions. My answer was honest, borne out of experience and intended to help you. No need to get hostile on me. And to add explanation: tenure is a way for professors so they can lecture without a fear to getting "bad grades" from students that even should be in his/hers class. And to add the final answer: it is the university's responsibility to choose and employ good lecturers. So the "opinion" of the students is NOT crediblem precisely due to reasons YOU argued. I agree with you, but I am not sure you understood that.
    – xmp125a
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 15:42

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