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?
While this may vary significantly from institution to institution, my understanding is that, in the US at least, evaluations are at least read by:
- The instructor, who needs to get feedback on their teaching efficacy
- 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.
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).