Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations

Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations

Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations

Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations


Examines the critical subject of student evaluations of teaching, furnishing both the research base behind the use of student ratings and practical suggestions for interpreting the data they provide. Focuses on all phases of the student rating process - from data gathering methods to presentation of results. Topics include methods of encouraging meaningful evaluations, midsemester feedback, uses of quality teams and focus groups, and creating questions that target individual faculty needs and interest. With a humorous look at the popular myths surrounding student evaluations and emerging research on what is known concerning student evaluations and their use, this volume argues that the evaluation of teaching is a learning process in itself. This is the 87th issue of the Jossey-Bass series New Directions for Teaching and Learning.


When student ratings are mentioned, the discussion often
turns emotional. The abundance of research on these
feedback mechanisms, however, can show how to use
them to learn how to make teaching more effective and
student learning longer lasting

[Hey, doesn't your office administer the student ratings on campus?]

And so begins another opportunity to listen to faculty concerns about student ratings of instruction, dispel popular myths, and try to explain how we prefer rating forms to be administered and the results used on campus. The collection of student ratings of instruction to evaluate faculty and courses has become commonplace at most universities, with some high stakes (Seldin, 1999). It is only natural for faculty to be curious and concerned about the student rating process.

Unfortunately, there are probably more misconceptions about student ratings than facts known about them, yet we do know quite a bit. Cashin stated as long ago as 1988 that there were over thirteen hundred articles and books dealing with research on student ratings. So what do we know? Sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and read on as I let you listen in on a conversation that I have at least once a month with faculty who have cornered me on the bus, at a football game, or in the grocery store. It is a conversation about the knowns and unknowns of student ratings.

The day began as most other days do: I was standing in line holding the door outside the espresso café when I first heard it.

[It's just a big personality contest and you know it!]

I immediately knew what the conversation was all about. Three professors standing in line ahead of me were discussing what our office had just delivered the day before: student rating results for the fall semester. I quickly sized up the threesome before they spotted me. The two men were a much-experienced full professor in chemistry and a recently hired assistant . . .

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