Presumably, evaluations are anonymized to protect the students from possible retaliation by the instructor or institution.

Is there anything in the reverse direction (keeping that information hidden is beneficial to the instructor)?

What are potential consequences if a student chooses to place identifying information (e.g. knowledge of a particular conversation) onto an evaluation?

The exact situation is that one of my friends was considering discussing a very long conversation she'd had with the professor on the class evaluation, and how it exemplified issues she'd had with the class. She's taking a class with that professor next semester, which is a big issue for the student. That issue aside, I'm wondering if there would be good reaons to avoid this even if she would never take another class with this instructor.

  • ..."if a student chooses to place identifying information onto an evaluation?". That is plain stupid. There is a good reason these evaluations are anonymous and there should stay that way.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 10:17
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    I would say, instead, that evaluations are anonymous to allow students to respond honestly. This prevents not just "retaliation" at specific students but "rewards" as well (i.e., professors cannot give bonus points for good evaluations).
    – Kimball
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 11:14
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    She's taking a class with that professor next semester (a big potential issue) — Unless I'm missing something, this still seems like an "issue" for the student, not the instructor.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 14:02
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    @MadJack Yes, I advised her against doing that for that reason. I was wondering if there were any other reasons to avoid it, either for the student or for the instructor. Thanks for pointing that out, will update question to clarify.
    – chipbuster
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 19:49

3 Answers 3


The only ramnifications I can think of is that whoever handles, edits or publishes that class evaluation may recognise the deanonymisation, consider it accidental and thus decides not to pass it for that reason.

As you can always pass deanonymised criticism to an instructor, be it by mail or by putting it on public display, there seems little point to me to protect the instructor from it on this particular medium.

Something else you might consider though is that even if the professor does not want to retaliate that criticism, they will have more difficulties to fairly evaluate the critic, which may have effects in either direction. While this is some annoyance you could spare the professor, it would also happen with non-anonymous critique made in other ways.

  • 2
    Also note that in some systems, written comments are rewritten/summarized as part of the data collection process so what reaches the professor may be anonymous no matter what you do.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 14:37
  • I think OP is referring to the conversation references as being something the professor would recognize, and thus conclude that the author was the only other participant in that conversation. This might not be evident to any third-party reader.
    – WBT
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 20:36

On the flipside, I was going to write a very nice teaching evaluation about my advisor. Part of the reason I respect him so much as a teacher is because I've had conversations with him that reveal that he cares deeply about his teaching and puts a huge amount of effort into his class.

But I didn't write any of those details in my evaluation, because I didn't want him thinking I was sucking up to him, and I thought it would mean more to him if it came from a student who was not his. So I just gave him good numeric scores and a few comments that could have come from any student.

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    When you are ready to graduate, send a note to the dean. that cannot be interpreted as suck-uppage (because graduating) and may help the professor.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 22:47

In general, class evaluations correlate pretty strongly with the grade the student received in the class, so evaluations aren't given much weight by the department, and most faculty are not likely to change the course based on them.

Given your specific situation, where the student will be taking another class, it would probably be best not to out yourself on a negative evaluation. He is not likely to change is teaching style (the good outcome), but if the professor is vindictive, it may make the next class more difficult for your friend. I don't see anything positive coming from outing herself, but I could see a potential for abuse from the prof.

  • I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that evals correlate strongly with the grade, but I am still skeptical. Do you have a source for that?
    – chipbuster
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 4:50
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    You can google it, but Duke did a fairly interesting study on the correlation (stat.duke.edu/~dalene/chance/chanceweb/153.johnson.pdf). As usual, its not cut-and-dry, and spends quite a bit of time pouring over the data. Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 18:23

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