Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Students Rating Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Students Rating Teachers

Article excerpt

At the first meeting in the week of December 9, 1929, every undergraduate student in the University of Washington was asked to appraise each of his classes and each instructor on a rating blank containing thirty-five topics. During this appraisal, which required from twenty-five to forty minutes, the instructor withdrew from the room. When the ratings were completed, they were securely bound and delivered by a student to a faculty committee responsible for their tabulation and for putting them to the uses for which they were intended.

The members of the Educational Research Committee had been appointed by the President of the University on recommendation of its faculty.(1) They had been given instructions to carry on any studies that seemed to promise an increase in the educational effectiveness of the University. Among the projects undertaken by the committee was one to improve the quality of teaching in the University. The President in a letter to the faculty pointed out that, although no one familiar with college teaching could subscribe to the blanket indictments of its quality, there could exist no doubt that the general level of teaching effectiveness could be raised. The peculiar conditions under which the college teacher works deprive him of the stimulation and criticism that insure at least some increase of competence of other professional men. The surgeon, the engineer, and the lawyer do much of their work under conditions that inform them of the success or failure of their procedures. In contrast, the college teacher works almost entirely in the dark. So inured is he to this situation that he often fails to recognize the bad effects of the ineffective techniques that he develops. Evidence has been presented to show that high-school teachers improve little in teaching skill after their first five years of experience. The college teacher works under conditions even less conducive to improvement. These considerations led the Committee to cast about for means of giving the college teacher that detailed, objective criticism of his courses and methods that seems to be essential for increase in teaching effectiveness.

The Committee laid down certain criteria for the evaluation of the various methods that were proposed. It was decided that to be worthy of experimental trial any source of information must meet the nine conditions here enumerated. It must give a detailed and analytical appraisal of the course and the instructor. It must show the effects of the course upon the students for whom the course is given. Since comparative judgments are often more enlightening than absolute criticisms, it must enable an instructor to see his standing in the faculty group on each of the topics on which he is given information. It must hold out the possibility of securing reliable judgments. This involves at least the possibility of securing appraisals in such a form that reliability and validity can be studied objectively. It must make frequent appraisals of each characteristic possible in order that the results of attempts to improve may be discovered. The information must be in a form that can be readily used by the instructor who receives it. There must be a minimum of interference with the conduct of classes. There must be no infringement of academic freedom. The expense must be within reasonable limits.

These criteria were used in scrutinizing nine possible sources of information which can merely be listed here. They were:

1. Inferences on the quality of teaching from the amount and quality of scholarly publication

2. Visiting of classes by chairmen of departments or other critics

3. Inferences of teaching success from outside contacts

4. A study of examination questions

5. The use of standard tests

6. Inferences of effectiveness drawn from experience or training

7. The judgments of faculty associates

8. Reports of students in conferences

9. …

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