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At the end of each semester, usually a month before final exams, my school (in the US) distributes teaching evaluations. What people will read these? Do people only see these after the final grades are posted?

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    Depends on the university. At my university we see the anonymous feedback ~one month after the end of the course. – BDL Nov 12 '14 at 7:52
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    This is too broad to be answerable. At my university, all evaluations are anonymous and are publicly available at the university webpages, so everybody reads them: future students deciding which courses to take, the department head, your jealous colleagues if you are good, your good colleagues pointing out that even your teaching is bad if you are bad. But it depends, in some schools, there might be an evaluation committee, in some the papers are collected and never read, ... – yo' Nov 12 '14 at 11:17
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    In my experience, faculty don't get to see these survey results until after grades have been submitted. Typically, any handwritten comments are typed into the survey summary so that there would be no chance of recognizing a student's handwriting. All of this is intended to protect students from faculty who might take revenege for negative evaluations. – Brian Borchers Nov 12 '14 at 17:14
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    And among those who read them, how many actually care? Anyway, in some universities (e.g. where I work) teachers can read teaching evaluations before the exams. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 12 '14 at 22:21
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    @MassimoOrtolano: To go even a step further, I know universities that place the evaluations in the middle of the semester and require professors to present the evaluation results in class to discuss options for improving the class with the students. Like that, students may still benefit from some improvements at least during the last few weeks of the semester - and in case of any problems with the exam preparation in the class, there is still a little time to for the professor to react to that before the exams. – O. R. Mapper Nov 13 '14 at 10:10
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While this may vary significantly from institution to institution, my understanding is that, in the US at least, evaluations are at least read by:

  1. The instructor, who needs to get feedback on their teaching efficacy
  2. Others in the department who are evaluating the instructor, e.g., as part of tenure and promotion review, as part of peer mentoring, as part of a departments' own ongoing self-management.

They may also end up being read by other administrators (internal or external, e.g., certification authorities) who are monitoring a department's teaching quality, and may be distributed to students to help them decide which classes to take. In these latter cases, it is likely that a summary will be distributed rather than the raw evaluations.

Timing with respect to finals and grading varies. In all cases, however, institutions tend to take pains to preserve student privacy so that unless somebody leaves a clearly identifying mark in the comments it should be unable to affect their grades either way.

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    That tallies with my experience as an adjunct professor in the US. For me, the best feedback is in the "open ended" responses: What can the professor do better? What does the professor do well? There are generally one or two gems from each class in those sections that help me figure out how to do better for the next class. – Peter K. Nov 12 '14 at 13:21
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    One subtlety at my university (which I didn't know until I'd been here for a decade) is that the individual teaching evaluation forms are available only to the instructor. Department heads, promotion committees, awards committees, and the like only have access to the average scores for the first two questions (quality of instructor / quality of course). In particular, only the instructor sees the students' narrative comments. – JeffE Nov 13 '14 at 22:45
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    @peter-k I've had the same experience too. I eagerly wait the "comments" section of our teacher evaluations as they are typically very useful. BTW, one more data point: in our institution, these comments can only be seen by the instructor (but the averages scores are completely public). – cabad Nov 14 '14 at 16:47
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In the university I attended, evaluations were in two parts. A number ranking (1-5) on some university wide (and sometimes department wide) questions were available to the department. A second set of open-answer questions were available to the professor only.

Other universities have different policies, including as open as making all the evaluations available (in an anonymized fashion) on the university website. Often a department secretary (or possibly assistant to the Chair of the department) is tasked with handling these evaluations. They (or your advisor) should be able to answer how your university handles them.

It is nearly universal (in the US at least) that the evaluations are not given to the professor until after final grades are turned in. This avoids the appearance of retaliation for a bad review (or reward for a good one).

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