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I'm a beginner instructor teaching undergraduates, and I seem to have their attention and am working hard to inspire them. Recently several of them have told me that they now approach the subject with a newfound enthusiasm because of me.

Anonymous teacher evaluations will probably be an important factor for me to remain employed; yet, I doubt that young undergrads know the significance of the evaluations, and I wonder whether they just circle any ratings on the evaluations form, just so they can get it over and done with as quickly as possible.

So, I am wondering whether I could make an announcement to the students at the end of the semester, when they have to evaluate me, that if they felt I've done a good job, this is their chance to support me and put it writing on their evaluations and to be as specific as possible.

Is this ok to ask of the students?

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You may certainly encourage your students to provide evaluations that accurately reflect their opinion of your teaching. You may encourage them to provide detailed information rather than just the bare minimum. You may also explain to them how the evaluations are used by administrators. What you must not do is to encourage them to make you look good by giving evaluations that don't accurately reflect their true opinions.

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In my experience undergraduates vastly overestimate the impact of their evaluations, rather than the other way around.

If you were to do this - and I think it's fine to do - I think a slightly more oblique approach (rather than "Support Me!") might be warranted, like noting that student evaluations are used in deciding who teaches which classes, etc.

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    I did not downvote, but do not agree with your first sentence. Evaluations play an important role, especially if they are positive, they can compensate for negative ones, which are almost unavoidable, no matter how hard you work. I think that soliciting feedback has something "vulgar" (feedback forms from restaurant visits to bathroom experience), but times where only what management can measure is being counted are vulgar. – Captain Emacs Oct 18 '17 at 11:09
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    @CaptainEmacs My suggestion is not that they're unimportant, but rather that I have encountered students who sincerely believe their evals will be enough to get tenured faculty fired. – Fomite Oct 18 '17 at 15:02
  • Well, they certainly may hope so. If they come in strong enough groups, it can actually happen. In any case, it can weaken a young/inexperienced academic's position, so it does matter, not individually, but in a group. – Captain Emacs Oct 18 '17 at 16:40
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    @CaptainEmacs Again, I agree. I was mostly suggesting that the OP's concern that students don't know the significance of their evals might not be true. – Fomite Oct 18 '17 at 17:43
  • I generally disagree with the first sentence: undergraduates estimate the impact of their evaluations as much as the university and the professors explain them their value. If no one explains the impact of their evaluations, they cannot estimate it correctly. – Massimo Ortolano Oct 18 '17 at 19:05

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