I was looking over my teaching evaluations from when I taught at SMU. The first class I taught, my so-called "normed" evaluations (think of figure skating or gymnastics -- subtract the high and the low score and average the rest) came to 8.3 on a scale of 1-9. The second class came back at 8.6. The best part about the second class's evaluations is that the raw scores were 57% nines and there were no evaluations below an eight. As a result, my overall average was about 8.5.
The key was that I made adjustments. Even with only two weeks to prepare and an accelerated schedule (I was teaching six classroom hours a week on the second class) -- and even billing 42+ hours a week as an attorney at the same time -- I was able to teach health care dispute resolution to a class including hospital administrators, Ph.D., MDs, JDs, health care consultants and graduate social workers. Viewed against a program faculty that averaged 3.5 on evaluations (a topic that came up at the last faculty meeting I attended before the program retrenched), I can look back and still be pleased.
The class outline is here: http://adrr.com/smu/health/index.htm
One thing that evaluations drove home to me, and that was highlighted in discussions about evaluations with other people teaching in the program, is that if you listen to feedback and adjust, you will get better. If you don't listen, but discount it as wrong or misunderstood, you will not improve. There is always a reason for the way people react to you, and usually it is something within your control (at least to change). The big thing for me was the number of people who felt my organization was only "ok" (well, 7 out of 9) in the first class. That class was tightly organized, but I obviously did not communicate the organization. I let the structure display itself a little more in the second class and was rewarded by the class responding.
The important lesson that reminded me to learn again was that when there is a problem, even if only a relative one, the right response is to ask yourself what solution will work rather than fighting with the message. Learn from the message, don't fight with it.
Next post I might talk about http://www.adrr.com/adr4/ppp.htm and related matters, but I need to spend some more time learning right now.