Student Evaluations of Faculty

  1. I have taught in more that one nursing education institution and with a variety of student populations. My experience everywhere has been that nursing students tend to be somewhat harsh and critical evaluators of faculty, as opposed to students from other majors. I have some theories about this, primarily I think we tend to admit students who are less well prepared academically than other majors and then proceed to expect them to perform well in an intense, rigorous, stressful program of study. Subsequently, students project their frustrations and anger onto faculty at end-of-term evaluation time. I have posted here to ask if anyone else has made note of this phenomenon and what opinions are. As a member of our faculty from another department said: "those nurses are a hard-sell, I feel like I'm in the cross-hairs all the time". The Dean of our college has pointed to the less-than-average numbers and commented on the data in regard to using it for decision-making about the viability of our program. Comments??
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  2. 15 Comments

  3. by   Rebecca King
    I think when considering the sometimes negative tone of student nurse evaluations of faculty it is also important to consider the underlying nature of the student(s). The program in which I teach administers the NET to incoming students. One area of this exam assess the passive or aggressive nature of the student. Consistently this exam has shown that 70 - 80% of our students have aggressive tendencies. It may be possible that students finds anonymous evaluations the least threatening avenue to vent these aggressive tendencies.
  4. by   Cassidy Clark
    I have been teaching LVN students for two years in both the community college and technical school environments. I think that when multiple students have a gripe or complaint about an instructor's approach or attitude,the instructor needs to examine it seriously. For many years nursing has been known for eating its young alive. This begins in nursing school with the instructor breathing down the student's neck and increasing anxiety. Many (or most) of our students come from dysfunctional backgrounds and are already under a great deal of stress in their personal lives, which nursing school tends to compound. I think nurse educators need to start taking a humanistic and holistic approach to nursing education. For example, last semester I was teaching a group of LVN student's on their second clinical rotation. This time period is one of great growth...as they begin to pass medications, they have many opprotunities to focus on their patients as systems and they can begin to formulate a picture in their mind of what certain patient populations characteristics are. I had one student in particular who started off the quarter performing very well, demonstrating great capability and potential. As the semester wore on, she became increasingly stressed in clinical and was having difficulty passing the simplest medication...she had difficulty even accessing her drug book for med. info. In her mid-term evaluation, instead of being harsh and critical of her performance I related to her that I was gravely concerned with her performance, but I knew how hard nursing school was, especially with family responsibiliites. The student broke down in tears and confided that she was in an abusive situation with her husband and she saw no way out of it. I was able to contract with her to see the school psychiatrist.She started counselling and problem solving her home situation. Amazingly, her clinical and classroom performance improved dramatically. We don't need to be our student's best friends, but we do need to address them as holistic human beings. There must be some mutal respect. Perhaps your faculty needs to take a closer look at their philosophy of nursing education and their approach with students. If we are ever going to attract indivivuals who are qualified and capable of earning a BSN, we must treat them as qualified and capable human beings.If you are doing this in your program, it will be reflected in your student evaluations.
  5. by   ccolt
    I agree that we need to see students holistically. It seems nursing education has two major areas to consider the student and the client. It is difficult to meet all the student needs.. counselor, supporter, educator, and also the needs of the client. It seems like the students sometimes evaluate the faculty more for the care and support then the actual education. I teach in the area of psychiatric nursing. This course is especially challenging for the students because it brings up so many of their own issues. The students consistently evaluate the educators of this course very harshly. Have any of you seen this with your courses.
  6. by   mbailey
    What do you think of asking the students to sign the evaluations? This request seems fair to me as I must sign any evaluations I do of students. What purpose does it serve to have students lambaste faculty without taking responsibility for what they say? We are presently having discussions at our school about whether we should require a signature on an evaluation. This is how the real world works.
  7. by   neumann
    When I was a new comer to the clinical nursing scene I got rave reviews from students. They nominated me Instructor of the year, even though I didn't qualify. This did cause some problems with the clinical faculty staff who work really hard and never get noticed. I find that as time goes on, 5 years, I grade more appropriately and use more constructive critism. My biggest fear was to see any of these students fail. But in reality, some should fail and not continue on with nursing. It is a learning process being an educator, one we should not take lightly.
  8. by   valmor1984
    Cassidy, I certainly agree with much of what you say (treating all with respect and as holistic beings) but strongly disagree with some sweeping statements you have made:

    Quote from Cassidy Clark
    Many (or most) of our students come from dysfunctional backgrounds and are already under a great deal of stress in their personal lives, which nursing school tends to compound.
    This may be true of students in your program; it certainly is not true in my experience (20 years in staff nursing/management, and 15 years in nursing education). I am unaware of data that shows that this is true of many or most nursing students.

    Quote from Cassidy Clark
    For many years nursing has been known for eating its young alive.
    Must we perpetuate this tired old myth? I bring in the words of Donna Cardillo in NurseWeek:

    "So, why is the expression repeated over and over? Because it's human nature to focus on the negative. Sadly, good works often go unnoticed by many and unreported by those who perform them, and yet we're often quick to note bad behavior. Additionally, those nurses who prefer to dwell on what they perceive as wrong with nursing, talk the loudest and the longest. The people doing all the good stuff don't get on the bandwagon and say, "Well, I helped another student today" or "I went out of my way to teach some new nurses this week."


    For those of you who still cling steadfastly to the notion that nurses eat their young and think that I have my head in the sand, here's a reality check. Why did most of us become nurses? Certainly not to harm, impede, or subjugate anyone. The truth is that there will always be certain people in every profession who need to lash out at new members of the profession for their own reasons. It happens to a certain extent in almost every workplace, almost every profession."


    Finally, Cassidy, you will learn (as I did) that anonymous student evaluations can be a source of information for growth and improvement as an educator. Equally, they can be misused to "strike back" if a student does not like their grade, feels an educator/the course is too demanding, does not like the amount of effort required to get the "almighty A", etc.



    In evaluations, as in most things in life, I have found that the truth lies somewhere between "you are the best teacher on the planet" and "you could not teach a dog to bark". I have gotten both types of comments, every semester, for 15 years.



    I do my best, stay current, stay flexible, and work tirelessly alongside any student who will commit to the same level of hard work that I do. I accept that I cannot please all of the people all of the time.
  9. by   VickyRN
    Quote from valmor1984
    Cassidy, I certainly agree with much of what you say (treating all with respect and as holistic beings) but strongly disagree with some sweeping statements you have made:



    This may be true of students in your program; it certainly is not true in my experience (20 years in staff nursing/management, and 15 years in nursing education). I am unaware of data that shows that this is true of many or most nursing students.



    Must we perpetuate this tired old myth? I bring in the words of Donna Cardillo in NurseWeek:

    "So, why is the expression repeated over and over? Because it’s human nature to focus on the negative. Sadly, good works often go unnoticed by many and unreported by those who perform them, and yet we’re often quick to note bad behavior. Additionally, those nurses who prefer to dwell on what they perceive as wrong with nursing, talk the loudest and the longest. The people doing all the good stuff don’t get on the bandwagon and say, “Well, I helped another student today” or “I went out of my way to teach some new nurses this week.”


    For those of you who still cling steadfastly to the notion that nurses eat their young and think that I have my head in the sand, here’s a reality check. Why did most of us become nurses? Certainly not to harm, impede, or subjugate anyone. The truth is that there will always be certain people in every profession who need to lash out at new members of the profession for their own reasons. It happens to a certain extent in almost every workplace, almost every profession."


    Finally, Cassidy, you will learn (as I did) that anonymous student evaluations can be a source of information for growth and improvement as an educator. Equally, they can be misused to "strike back" if a student does not like their grade, feels an educator/the course is too demanding, does not like the amount of effort required to get the "almighty A", etc.



    In evaluations, as in most things in life, I have found that the truth lies somewhere between "you are the best teacher on the planet" and "you could not teach a dog to bark". I have gotten both types of comments, every semester, for 15 years.



    I do my best, stay current, stay flexible, and work tirelessly alongside any student who will commit to the same level of hard work that I do. I accept that I cannot please all of the people all of the time.
    :yeahthat: Unfortunately, at our CON, student evaluations are directly tied into our annual evals, which often places unrealistic expectations on educators. We all know that the general tone of student evals provides useful feedback, but one or two disgruntled students can significantly "skew" results. There is also increasing pressure and scrutiny being placed on nursing programs in community colleges and universities to "produce" more graduates (in other words, retain as many students as possible) to bring optimal return to scarce state funds. Unfortunately, some students just do not make it, no matter what retention programs are in place (our CON is very student friendly and there are extensive resources available for struggling students). Individual accountability is stressed in our program. After all is said or done, the student is ultimately responsible for his or her own success or failure.
  10. by   valmor1984
    VickyRN, I am heartily sorry to hear that student evaluations are directly tied into your annual evaluations at your institution.

    Where I teach, this is not the case, at least not directly. We are asked to summarize them them in our annual report (our response to our annual eval) but the institution does not directly have access or control of the student evaluations of faculty.

    In my annual evaluation, I place much more emphasis on the effectiveness of teaching...how many students were successful, the number of at-risk students counseled/remediated during the semester who went on to be successful, the responses of students in my free-response survey on whether the course elements (case studies, in-class exercises, etc.) helped them to learn, and the validity/reliability data on test items.

    It is not that I don't value the opinion of my students on the "official" evaluation provided by the university, but it is only one piece (and, as another write pointed out, and easily "skewed" piece) of a much larger pie.
  11. by   HeartsOpenWide
    I'd like to answer this one from the perspective of the student. First of all, I am in a BSN program that goes by merit (I am not less academically prepared than other majors). Students are accepted by their overall GPA, pre-req GPA and TEAS score. Students can get extra points for having past hands on medical experience and for speaking a foreign language (when I was having a hard time getting a B during my first semester after having all A's prior to nursing school my instructor explained to me that many students in my class have been getting B's and that its often a hard thing to swallow as a new nursing student and that no one in my class that got accepted had less than a 3.5 GPA). I have had wonderful teachers and awful teachers...actually I wouldn't call them teachers because they have no business teaching. I am sure they make awesome nurses and know their stuff...but knowing your stuff does not automatically make you quantifiable to teach it...but nurse educators seem to be selected this way; I am sure particularly due to the shortage of nursing instructors (we have very few PhD nurses, quite a few Master degree nurses and even BSN nurse educators...one who even graduated only 2 years ago teaching, in this situation its clinical). I do for the most part notice a great difference in instructors that have a masters and those with a PhD. Although two of my favorite instructors had their master's but quit to go on to get their PhD's...fully paid too, and they deserved it!

    The consensus in my class is that we understand that we not going to be spoon fed, but we also feel like we should not be expected to buy a hunting manual, figure out for our selves how the gun works, how to shoot the gun, kill the animal, cook the animal, and then eat it all on our own but still pay the absent tour guide; we are paying good money for our education and are not paying for teachers to merely assign reading, throw up power points that out line the chapters and then test us. My best teachers have been the ones that are still practicing nursing and bring experience stories to the class room to help us better understand the concepts they are teaching us.
  12. by   jjjoy
    Quote from HeartsOpenWide
    The consensus in my class is that we understand that we not going to be spoon fed, but we also feel like we should not be expected to buy a hunting manual, figure out for our selves how the gun works, how to shoot the gun, kill the animal, cook the animal, and then eat it all on our own but still pay the absent tour guide; we are paying good money for our education and are not paying for teachers to merely assign reading, throw up power points that out line the chapters and then test us. My best teachers have been the ones that are still practicing nursing and bring experience stories to the class room to help us better understand the concepts they are teaching us.
    I agree with your sentiment. I was very frustrated with my nursing education and from what I read here it represented the norm, not an exception, in that the instructors mostly dumped a ton of material on us, didn't do much to put it into context or make it real - just read outlines of the chapters to us, and then gave us NCLEX style test questions that only slightly reflected the content of the assignments given to us. Lectures didn't improve on comprehension, only let me know what topical areas *might* be more likely to show up on a test. I'm okay with teaching myself, but let me know that upfront and be clear about what the objectives are.

    Unfortunately, it seems that much of nursing education these days is more about meeting educational requirements than about the actual quality of the education and preparedness of students. The objective is to cover X amount of content (thousands of pages of material!), provide X number of clinical hours, and have X % students pass the NCLEX. So they toss out tons of reading assignments and speed through unenlightening lectures, send students to clinical where they have limited opportunities to do more than assist with ADLs and have to fight for chances to practice hands on skills, and attempt to weed out poor NCLEX test takers by having all classes use NCLEX style testing (just a few oddly worded questions to "test" one's retention and comprehension of hundreds of pages of content covering dozens of conditions and nursing implications).

    I'm not blaming instructors, though. They do their best within a less than ideal system. I do hope to see it change and improve over time, though!
  13. by   Altered
    Quote from NotTenured
    primarily I think we tend to admit students who are less well prepared academically than other majors and then proceed to expect them to perform well in an intense, rigorous, stressful program of study
    lol. Are so incompetent that we are unable to answer basic questions? The evaluation questions hardly leave room for subjectivity.
  14. by   valmor1984
    Quote from Altered
    lol. Are so incompetent that we are unable to answer basic questions? The evaluation questions hardly leave room for subjectivity.
    Perhaps if you posted your comments in clear, basic English, your point might be easier to ascertain.

    As it is, I must assume that you are a student, attempting to make a comment that disagrees with the OP.

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