I spent an hour or so this morning talking to a young colleague who had just made the mistake of reading her teaching evaluations for the semester. She was upset, antagonized, demoralized, and stricken with anxiety. The student criticisms ranged from silly and irrelevant (e.g., comments about the instructor's shoes) to simply mean. No doubt she'll carry all of this into her classes next semester, thereby enabling the all too familiar self-fulfilling downward spiral from mere unpopularity to truly ineffective (because fixated on the evaluations rather than the subject-matter) teaching. Why do we put faculty through this exercise in intimidation and humiliation?
So when she asked me what she should do, I told her that the answer was simple: stop reading your evaluations. Ignore them. Seriously: Has anyone has learned a damn thing of value from student evaluations?