Negativity Bias

Today’s rather short post is brought to you by an instructor with 100 student projects to review! lol But seriously, I wanted to take a moment because it is officially the season of course evaluations, and I saw some interesting chatter in my program’s slack about this topic. There was the very familiar back-and-forth about low response rates and the inevitable posts about abandoning the whole idea of course evaluations because they are either useless or because we are in such extraordinary circumstances that it wouldn’t be worth it to encourage students to post evaluations. This came on the heels of the final class sessions for my community-engaged courses during which the students had to present their concepts to a variety of powerhouse guests who work on the digital divide. I have since heard that it went very well, that the students’ work was impressive, and that the students really enjoyed the experience. That didn’t stop my stupid brain from highlighting all the things that went horribly WRONG like sending the wrong zoom link for the morning session or running out of time in BOTH sessions.

And so it is for many of us who teach. Sometimes all we can think about is the lessons that tanked or the students we couldn’t reach. I would argue this is partly why we get anxious about student evaluations. Not to discount the demonstrably huge flaws of most course evaluations as a measure of teaching performance or student learning (they’re hella racist and sexist, for instance). But for most of us, I think, we don’t want confirmation of our worst fear which is that we botched the whole semester. Of course, these fears are grounded in the negativity bias we all have which ensures we remember the negative things way more clearly and frequently than all the positive things. It’ll be hard, but try not to let the negativity bias monster get you. You’ve done extraordinary things this past year and so have your students. Remind them of all you’ve accomplished together in spite (or because) of the difficulties. Save any praise when it comes so you can look at it when you’re feeling particularly down about your teaching. Get after those course evals because chances are you’ll need them (for promotions, job apps, etc.) and because your students deserve a chance – however flawed – to speak up about your class without fear of retaliation.

How do you battle the negativity bias monster? Leave a comment below!

Stay tuned for more posts this year about teaching, research, and academia. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @litambitions and Instagram: @ecacademic (where I really nerd out about planning). You can also follow this blog (see the email subscribe button on the home page)ALSO, I am happy to announce that I recently launched a biweekly podcast called Vita Abundantior in which I conduct interviews with awesome women and ask them how they go about living such abundant lives (avail on all major streaming platforms).

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