[no]WURries: Disrespectful communicating

Sometimes student comments are rude. How to communicate respectfully with each other?


‘While you are teaching, connect with your students by sharing personal stories. For example, during my lectures I show pictures of my Belgian hometown and I talk about my own student days. As a result, the students learn a bit about the person behind the lecturer and they might be more respectful in their evaluations.’

Jente Ottenburghs, lecturer at FEM and WEC


‘The anonymity of course evaluations is very important, but I understand that it has its drawbacks too. I think teachers should therefore clarify their wishes and limits regarding the subject evaluations. You can say that all criticism is welcome, as long as it is expressed in a constructive, respectful way. I recommend reiterating this before the open-ended questions to remind students of it at that point. Students don’t read the general introduction to an evaluation very carefully, so a remark about respectful communication probably has less effect there.’

Juliette Bleijs, Master’s student of Nutrition and Health


‘Unfortunately, this description of personal, hurtful, and rude course evaluations is all too familiar to me. The impact of this on teachers (especially new ones) and course coordinators cannot be underestimated. Criticism is always welcome, but it must be constructive. So I recommend that subject coordinators filter out personal hurtful or abusive responses before the evaluations go to the lecturers. Sadly, that kind of censorship can be necessary sometimes to keep everyone on track and maintain teachers’ morale.’

Tjerk Sminia, teacher and course coordinator of Organic Chemistry

See through it

‘If a student writes a nasty remark like that, I think it’s because they are annoyed about a low grade. Try to see through it and not to take it personally. Another possible solution would be a disclaimer above the course evaluation in which you inform students that unprofessional feedback is not welcome and will not be taken into account.’

Elke Klein Holkenborg, Master’s student of Plant Sciences

Mid-term feedback

‘Online education has created a gap between students and teachers. It transformed teachers from people into a concept. Reduce that distance by using breaks, time after class or practicals as moments to discuss the course with one or more students. Directly ask for feedback at that point. Of course, it is impossible to talk to every student like this, but it does give the students the feeling that they are being heard and with a bit of luck they will become even more involved in the course.’

A Master’s student of Biology 

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If you have advice or tips for this Wurrier or if you need some advice yourself, email your tips or question by 5 May to resource@wur.nl, subject noWURries.

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