Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Using the Delphi Method in Student Evaluations of Faculty

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Using the Delphi Method in Student Evaluations of Faculty

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In recent years, the practice of students evaluating faculty has increased substantially. At many universities student evaluations are the most important factor (or the only factor) used in evaluating faculty teaching. Many faculty members question the practice of placing such weight on student evaluations arguing that they are not reliable. This article presents the results of a study that examined the effects of using the Delphi method for student evaluations of faculty. One of the primary advantages of the Delphi method is that opinions tend to converge on successive rounds of "input-feedback." Students in four sections of undergraduate College of Business courses used the Delphi method to evaluate their instructors. The results are encouraging. Of the students reporting that the use of the Delphi method made a difference, almost 82% reported that this method improved the faculty evaluation process while only 18% reported that this method made it worse. Faculty members also reported positive results. Evidence confirming student convergence was also found and is described.

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, the practice of student evaluation of faculty has increased at an exponential rate (Hepworth & Oviatt, 1985). Seldin (1993) studied 600 liberal arts colleges in 1973, 1983, and 1993 and found that the number of colleges using student evaluations increased from 28 percent to 68 percent to 86 percent in 1993. Muse (1979) surveyed 100 programs and reported that 84 percent used some teaching evaluation instrument and 67 percent made use of the instrument compulsory. Specifically, Calderon et al. (1994) found that over 80% of business schools "always use" student ratings as a component of faculty evaluation. A 1998 survey reported that 99.3% of business schools used some form of student evaluations as input for evaluating teaching (Comm & Mathaisel, 1998). On some university campuses, student evaluations of faculty "... are now the most important, and sometimes the sole, measure of an instructor's teaching ability" (Wilson, 1998, p. A12).

Because many faculty members question the accuracy of student evaluations, different forms of evaluation have been tried with the hope of finding ones that will be accurate, reliable, and trusted by the faculty. A review of the literature on student evaluations of faculty can be found in a set of five articles published in the November 1997 issue of American Psychologist. Greenwald (1997) examined validity issues with student evaluations; d'Apollonia and Abrami (1997) conducted a meta-analysis of the multisection validity studies of student evaluations; Greenwald and Gillmore (1997) studied the relationship between student evaluations and expected course grades; Marsh and Roche (1997) reviewed research on student evaluations focusing on the multidimensionality of teaching and evaluations and examined evaluations validity, perceived bias, and usefulness; McKeachie (1997) discussed student evaluations in general and the other four articles in particular. Faculty members are concerned about the use of student evaluations for several reasons. Research has shown that professors believe factors unrelated to teaching effectiveness can bias student responses. The factors include course difficulty, grading leniency, instructor popularity, class size, etc. (Marsh & Overall, 1981). Whitworth et al (2002) examined over 12,000 student evaluations to determine the effect of faculty gender, course type, and course level on students' evaluations of faculty members. They found that "... students perceived that female faculty members were better teachers than their male counterparts." (2002, p. 288) They also reported that evaluations varied by course type and course level. Graduate student ratings were significantly higher than undergraduate student ratings (2002, p. 288). They concluded, "... course evaluations of faculty members should not be compared across disciplines and levels of courses. …

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