I taught my first class last quarter. The results for evaluations are very polarized. The raw data shows that my scores are either very high or very low for a majority of items. That implies some students loved the class and some hated it.
Honestly, this teaching experience has been so tiring that I am seriously thinking teaching is not for me. My colleagues tell me it will get better but I am not sure how I feel about my average performance. I wish the evaluations weren't so polarized so I could know if I was overall an effective instructor or not.
How would you make sense of the results?
I would not sweat over it (not yet!). Not because ONLY 58% of students filled the evaluation form and definitely not from teaching your first course! Wait till you teach more courses, gather more data then re-evaluate from there. Teaching requires experience and experience comes with time.
Remember this, how many professors did you have when you were a student that you did not like? Did you not like them because you did not like the course itself? Did not like their personalities? Just because they were mean? Got a bad grade with them? Had you do too many homework, etc. the point is, many students (especially undergraduates) tend to be somehow moody when filling evaluations. I fear sometime that many of these evaluations are based on the professor's charisma, personality, the way s/he dresses, popularity than actual teaching.
One thing you can do is to collect informal evaluations every 4 weeks (or so) of the semester. So, you can see and re-evaluate your teaching methods sooner/faster. This can be done by sending online surveys to the students that let them post their reviews anonymously (You might wanna check your dept.'s rules for this first". Or maybe have short conversations with few students (A-student, B-student and C-student) to get some feed backs. Perhaps you can ask a fellow faculty member to attend your class 1-2 times to critique your teaching methods.