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I am applying for a post that requests me to provide student feedbacks. While my evaluation scores are pretty good, the feedback written by students sometime contradict each other. Some student wrote, "He is very nice and caring," while another wrote, "He is too harsh! :(" (yes, with the :( )

The contradicting one could be explained somehow, as students have different perspectives, but some feedbacks were invalid. For example, a student wrote "did not mark homework quickly," but my course did not have any homework.

I could foresee the interviewer will ask me to comment on these review—what is the best way to address them, particularly, for the invalid comments. For instance, I worry that the interviewer won't believe me when I say my course did not have homework.

(My university uses electronic feedback system so all the comments were printed on 2 A4 sheets, thus I cannot skip those invalid feedbacks.)

  • Why do you think the ones that you disagree with are necessarily invalid? – jakebeal Mar 4 '15 at 21:43
  • because my course did not have homework.... another comment was "He was late for class but I was never late." I kind of suspect it was from a student that I caught him plagiarizing and he wrote that on purpose. But surely I don't want to bring that up during the interview. – ceoec Mar 4 '15 at 21:44
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    I have a question for the experienced instructors. I know when I look at product reviews, there will always be a few bad ones, no matter how good the product. Does the same principle apply to student feedbacks? – Patricia Shanahan Mar 4 '15 at 22:18
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    @PatriciaShanahan yes, this is completely normal. Any individual comment should be taken with a grain of salt. If there are many comments that say similar things then that starts to become believable. It's quite common to see negative comments that are completely unsupportable (like my lecture based math class being criticized for "poor lab equipment" when there weren't any labs or a negative review on "Rate My Professor" for a course that I've never taught...) – Brian Borchers Mar 4 '15 at 22:42
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Everybody who evaluates student feedback expects a certain number of false positives / negatives. If a small-ish fraction of your students gave bad or just plain false feedback this is nothing to worry about.

I could foresee the interviewer will ask me to comment on these review, what is the best way to address them?

If those are only a few, then I doubt that an interviewer will be overly concerned by them. If she is, you can truthfully explain that it is simply not possible to be everybody's perfect teacher. Student's expectations differ, so it is infeasible to be great for everybody.

In particular those comments which were invalid. For instance, I worry the interviewer won't believe me when I say my course did not have homework.

Why do these specifically worry you? Frankly, "did not mark homework quickly" is not exactly a crushingly bad feedback even if correct.

(My university uses electronic feedback system so all the comments were printed on 2 A4 sheets, so I cannot skip those invalid feedback)

Of course not :) what would be the point if you could just pick-and-choose which feedback you consider valid?

  • Thank you, now I am much less worried, most of my feedback were good so it is likely to be okay! :) – ceoec Mar 5 '15 at 5:47
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Actually, it would be even worse if all the students have written "what a perfect teacher!" or so.

If the commitee has a little bit experience with student feedbacks (and I think they have), they will understand the standard deviation of the comments.

Since you are applying, you are the one who is going to explain these. So, they will not try to explain the comments by themselves.

I would suggest you to read them once more to remember for which course and semester they are written. In my opinion, it is more important for someone to keep track of his/her past.

All in all, if they are looking for someone with zero negative comments, they probably will end up with noone. And they know this

  • Agree about the validity of about all students wrote "prefect", did not think about that at all. – ceoec Mar 5 '15 at 5:48

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