Adapted from "Some Guidelines and Principles to Consider In Making Sense of Evaluation Feedback" by Kathy Hoover-Dempsey, Associate Professor, Psychology & Human Development, Peabody College.
Along with the fresh start of the new year, many instructors will receive an opportunity to assess their teaching skills when they receive student evaluations of their Fall courses. Making sense of student feedback can be challenging so we offer the following tips for examining evaluations.
When considering student evaluations:
When dealing with negative student feedback:
When deciding how to further your development as a teacher:
When planning steps to improve the feedback you receive in evaluations, consider the following options:
Student Rating Forms, a chapter from the book Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis.
Interpreting and Working with Your Course Evaluations [PDF], a resource from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University, featuring suggestions for improving one's scores on particular student evaluation questions
Evaluating and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, an on-line book published by the National Research Council (2003).]
The following articles can be found in the journal, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Volume 2001, Issue 87, Special Issue: Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations . Issue Edited by Karron G. Lewis.
The following articles are from the former newsletter of the Center for Teaching: Teaching Forum 6:1,Fall 2003 Newsletter, "Evaluating Teaching: Student Ratings and Beyond."
Using Student Ratings, by Ken Bain, Vice Provost for Instruction, Professor of History, and Director of the Research Academy for University Learning at Montclair State University, provides an overview of research on student evaluations. "The extensive research [on evaluations]...has found that student ratings and comments can provide valid and reliable information that can help an evaluator determine the effectiveness of a teacher. Indeed, the research has discovered that student ratings can correlate well with external measures of student learning and with instructor self-ratings when the latter are collected independent of personnel decisions. It has also found that student ratings are statistically reliable (i. e., they have internal stability and are consistent over time), are more statistically reliable than are colleague ratings, and are not easily or automatically manipulated by grades."
Student Ratings: Myths vs Research Evidence, by Michael Theall, Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Theall, a research expert in instructional design, development and evaluation, explores the myths and truths behind Student Ratings (reprinted with the permission of the Brigham Young University Faculty Center).
How To Evaluate Teaching, by Richard Felder, from Chemical Engineering Education, 38(3), 200-202 (2004). "A key to effective teaching evaluation is to collect data from multiple sources [peers, students, instructors, administrators]...making sure that all education-related activities are rated by the people best qualified to rate them."
Validity, Research, and Reality: Student Ratings of Instruction at the Crossroads, by Jennifer Franklin of the University of Arizona. In this essay, she asks: "Since the research that supports the use of student ratings of instruction was conducted during a time when most courses were given using conventional, face-to-face teaching methods, how can we use ratings to get feedback when we adopt new teaching methods and/or technologies unexamined by ratings research?"
Looking for Bias in All the Wrong Places: A Search for Truth or a Witch Hunt in Student Ratings of Instruction? by Michael Theall, Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and Jennifer Franklin, Center for Teaching and Learning at California State University, Dominguez Hills. "Through a half-century of research on student ratings, the constant quest has been to prove or disprove the existence of biasing factors. What have we learned, and what has happened as a result?"
Questions Frequently Asked about Student Rating Forms: Summary of Research Findings,” by Matthew Kaplan, Lisa A. Mets and Constance E. Cook, University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. This article answers questions such as, “What do we know about the relationship between grades and student ratings? What do student ratings tell us about teaching effectiveness?”
Flunking the Test: The Dismal Record of Student Evaluations, by Paul Trout, Montana State University. "Though most schools use them, numerical evaluations of faculty members get bad grades. They aren’t accurate and they’re dumbing down undergraduate education."
Student Ratings of Professors are not Gender Blind, by Susan Basow, Lafayette College. This article was originally published in the Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter. "The ratings of male professors are unaffected by student gender, but female professors frequently receive lower ratings from their male students and higher ratings from their female students. Female professors also appear to be evaluated according to a heavier set of expectations than are male professors, and these expectations affect student ratings."
Student Ratings of Women Faculty, by Michael Theall, Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and Jennifer Franklin, Center for Teaching and Learning at California State University, Dominguez Hills. This article provides research findings on interactions between instructor gender and student ratings of teaching.
Student Evaluations and Gendered Expectations: What We Can’t Count Can Hurt Us, by Kelley Massoni, University of Kansas, and distributed by the Sociologists for Women in Society. "How does gender enter into students’ evaluations of their teachers. Scholars who have attempted to answer this question are divided in their findings. ...This fact sheet is designed to make sense of the research on gender and teaching evaluations."
Are Student Ratings Unfair to Women? by Neal Koblitz, University of Washington, reprinted from the Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter, Vol. 20, No. 5, September-October, 1990. "If an instructor feels compelled to put students under pressure (assigning a lot of homework, giving challenging exams), then only the most serious and mature students are at all likely to respond with high ratings at the end of the course. Most students are inclined to “punish” the instructor. There is considerable evidence that the “punishment” is more severe if the instructor is female."
Gender and Student Evaluations: An Annotated Bibliography, at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan.
Student Evaluations: Gender Bias and Teaching Styles by Lynn H. Collings, Joan C. Chrisler, and Kathryn Quina, excerpted from Career Strategies for Women in Academe: Arming Athena (Sage Publications, 1998). "The authors discuss factors impacting student evaluations of faculty performance and steps women faculty in particular can take to ameliorate negative biases."
Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations. Karron G. Lewis, editor. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, c2001.
The Student Ratings Debate: Are They Valid? How Can We Best Use Them? Michael Theall, Philip C. Abrami, Lisa A. Mets, editors. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass Publishers, c2001.
Book Review, by Anupama Balasubramanian, CFT fellow. A review of Changing Practices in Evaluating Teaching, Peter Seldin and Associates. Anker, 1999. 275 pp. This book is available for checkout from the Center for Teaching Library, call number: LB2333 .S435 1999.
Consultation on Interpreting Student Evaluations: To schedule a consultation on student evaluations, call the Center for Teaching at 322-7290.