Class evaluations are a great resource for childbirth educators to be sure that we are meeting the needs of the families we work with. For some of us, evaluations are required by the organization we teach for. For others, especially independent educators, it is a tool that we can decide to use to keep our classes effective. Here is some information on the four levels of evaluation that you may find useful from Donald Kirkpatrick, a leader in evaluation research. This website can help you design appropriate evaluations that can be very useful to educators.
Receiving negative class evaluations
This week, I saw a blog "What to Do about Those Negative Comments on Course Evaluations?" from Faculty Focus (geared toward teaching college students) on the topic of negative class evaluations. It was a good reminder for me to consider what one does when an evaluation indicates a dissatisfied customer? Personally, I know it stings. A lot. In general, the responses on my evaluations are very positive. I know the families I work with are very satisfied. I am pretty sensitive to what the evaluations say, so I find I do better when I wait for a day or two after the class submitted them to read them. For some reason, I feel less vulnerable that way.
Every so often, I get an evaluation that tells me that I missed the mark. My first response is a bit of both shame and anger. I feel my face flush and my body tense. Then I want to cry. I am a tough old bird, but deep inside I am an old softie. I am disappointed in myself that someone was less than happy with my work product. There can be 20 evaluations and 19 of them are excellent. Unfortunately, it is the one that was less positive that stays with me for days and days. I totally lose perspective on all the good evaluations and focus on the one poor one. I believe that is a normal human response.
After reading a negative class evaluation
Here are the ten steps that I take when I receive a negative evaluation.
- I step away from the evaluations until I feel calm and collected.
- I reread ALL the evaluations again.
- I jot down some thoughts about how I felt the class had gone and my feelings on this evaluation.
- I call a trusted colleague or mentor and share the feedback I received.
- I listen to what my colleague has to say.
- I remind myself that this is ONE evaluation and the vast majority are overwhelmingly very positive.
- I ask myself if there could be some truth to the comments.
- I think about what I might change if necessary.
- If I have contact info, I reach out to thank them for their feedback and apologize for not meeting their needs.
- I ask if I can do something at this time to increase their satisfaction.
And then I move on. This is a normal part of being an educator. The feedback is valuable and when I know better, I can do better. I am not the right educator for every family and sometimes it is simply a bad fit. I know that I am not at the top of my game 100% of the time. When that happens, I deliver a product that I personally recognize as not being my best. My own responses are very similar to the recommendations by Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D., who authored the Faculty Focus article above.
What is your experience?
Evaluations are an important part of being a childbirth educator. Conducting brief check-ins throughout a class is important and the final evaluation is also useful. Not every evaluation is going to be stellar. Have you received class evaluations that have been negative before? What is your process when that happens? What do you do? I know I can't be the only one.