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The question is inspired by this image posted on reddit. Would this be considered a constructive step towards improving the interaction with students and the teaching in general? To clarify, I am talking about the reviews that the department or college solicits from students towards the end of the course, aka student feedback.

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    Maybe you want to elaborate this question. I may be slow, but from these two sentences and the image, I cannot put to gather what you are asking. What kind of reviews are you talking about / what subject? Is it a "should" in the question, or a "can", or a "is it good idea" or ..? Also, "improving teaching in general" is one of the vaguest goal you can set .. – Greg Mar 10 '15 at 1:35
  • I have clarified my question. – mkc Mar 10 '15 at 1:38
  • Thanks. It may also raise ethical questions. My understanding is that reviews are in principle anonymous, therefore if one discusses review eg with the same class, it is inevitable that some info slip out from the reaction of the students. On the other hand, in general if someone address student feedback and open to discussion about criticism, I think it is a good practice (we are talking about higher education level, and discussion doesn't mean automatic surrender to "we want easier exams" voices ). – Greg Mar 10 '15 at 1:45
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    Are you talking about discussing reviews from previous semesters? At most places, you don't get the student evaluations until after grades are posted. – Corvus Mar 10 '15 at 2:30
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When I was teaching at a German university and we received course feedback, we were required to inform the students about the feedback. So while the feedback was anonymously given by each student (online), the students should get general feedback on how the course was evaluated. For some that meant simply sending the questionnaire summary to the students, but many discussed the evaluation in the last lecture.

For me it made sense to discuss the results:

  1. You get an opportunity to thank the students for positive feedback.
  2. You get an opportunity to clarify contradicting or unclear feedback (e.g., talks to fast vs. talks to slow).
  3. You can also address 'below the belt' feedback. I think you can say anything if you do it with respect. And giving feedback -- even highly critical feedback -- with respect is something that students should learn, if only to prevent huge problems in the future where a lack of respect is ... less tolerated.
  4. You can show students how to constructively deal with feedback (if you can deal with feedback). I think you should both take the feedback serious and add some humor (i.e., take yourself lightly but the job seriously). Otherwise, you are not only alienating the current students but also future students.
  5. You can get feedback in the very last lecture. In some courses, the feedback was requested during the phase with the highest stress levels. Students only saw what they had learned and how they had benefited later.
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Your question is still rather vague, but it depends upon the manner in which one approaches the topic. The point is to make oneself inviting about student concerns rather than scaring them off.

It can helpful to show/mention some previous reviews at the start of a course to point out that there are certain issues the instructor is aware of and wants to avoid them being a problem. For instance (from your linked image), the instructor may say something "Based on reviews, I know I sometimes get excited and talk too fast, so if you notice I start speaking too fast, please let me know."

I think once students know the instructor is aware of such issues and wants to address helps turn internal complaints (for students) or worries (for instructors) into productive conversations. Discussing reviews can also be used as an opportunity to point out and correct common misconceptions of students.

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  • Yes, though in my opinion the item about a classroom mass shooting is wildly inappropriate in today's sad climate. – Corvus Mar 10 '15 at 4:57
  • I wonder whether it made sense in that class -- by which I mean it was actually seen and understood as humor. Reminds me a bit of this article: mu-warrior.blogspot.de/2014/01/… and how things can seem "inappropriate" from the outside when not knowing the lecturer and the class dynamics. – Daniel Wessel Mar 10 '15 at 10:03
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    @DanielWessel If the end result of making a joke like this is the university telling you you can't teach but we'll still pay you, that's not a lot of motivation not to do it. – Kimball Mar 10 '15 at 10:54
  • @Kimball I don't know. Working (or being paid by the university) but not being allowed to teach would be devastating for those people who love to teach. And frankly, if that prof has a more hands-on approach and does not shield the students from the ugly facts of life outside the safe campus bounds (and shows how to deal with them via humor), it's also a loss for the majority of students (who actually want to succeed later). – Daniel Wessel Mar 10 '15 at 16:32
  • @DanielWessel That was tongue-in-cheek, but does represent my attitude to academia's tendency to reward people with greater responsibilities and punish people by taking away responsibilities. Though I believe preventing professors from teaching (without termination) is usually a temporary punishment, for at most a few years. – Kimball Mar 10 '15 at 16:52

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