Teaching Matters

The emotional impact of student feedback

Back to program

Teaching Matters 2017 | Presentation Details | 28 NovemberNov 2017


The emotional impact of student feedback


Andrea Adam, Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching


Advancing the Scholarship of Learning and Teaching

Presentation Type

Showcase Presentation


Social Sciences 211




The literature on student evaluations of teaching (SET) is extensive and wide-ranging. There have been numerous studies investigating the validity of these evaluations and university teachers’ attitudes and beliefs about the process. However, there has been very little research into how teachers feel about the feedback they receive. This appears to be an important question, given the potential impact of feedback on teachers’ wellbeing, as well as on their use of feedback to guide teaching practice. The aim of this research was to investigate teachers’ emotional reactions to student evaluations of teaching. Teaching staff (n=132) from the University of Tasmania completed an online questionnaire, which asked about their thoughts and emotions when receiving formal eVALUate feedback from students, and any actions they take in response. Fredrikson’s modified Differential Emotions Scale (mDES; (Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003) was used to collect information about the relative frequency with which particular positive and negative emotions were experienced in response to receiving student feedback. Overall, participants indicated that they experienced positive emotions (e.g., appreciation, encouragement, interest) more frequently in response to student feedback than they experienced negative emotions (e.g., anger, stress, sadness). The three most commonly reported positive emotions were experienced ‘moderately’ or more by at least-two-thirds of the participants. However, approximately one-quarter of participants also reported experiencing the top negative emotions relatively strongly (‘moderately’ or more). In combination, both the results from the mDES and participants’ comments on open-ended questions suggest some student feedback can have a markedly negative impact on some of our teachers’ emotional wellbeing. These findings have implications for the way in which teachers are supported to interpret and make use of student feedback on their teaching.


Fredrickson, B. L., Tugade, M. M., Waugh, C. E., & Larkin, G. R. (2003). What good are positive emotions in crises? A prospective study of resilience and emotions following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 365-376.

Back to program