Ambivalence About Student Evaluations

Student ratings continue to be the source of information most widely used to assess teaching. The use of written, formal student ratings increased from 88.1 to 94.2 percent over the ten-year period.

A dean in Texas wrote, “Students are the most accurate judge of teaching effectiveness.” Remarked a California dean, “Student views are given top priority here.” And a Massachusetts dean said, “Student ratings are crucial in evaluating teaching for tenure and promotion decisions.” Although student ratings are enjoying unprecedented popularity, not all deans support their use. Said a dean in South Carolina, “Student ratings have led directly to grade inflation. If you give high grades, students will reward you with high ratings.”

—J. Elizabeth Miller and Peter Seldin, “Changing Practices in Faculty Evaluation” in Academe (May-June, 2014), p. 37.

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  1. As a general rule, I guess the more advanced and mature the student is, them more significant his/her assessment of the teacher would be; however, as the movie “The Paper Chase” illustrated, it may take time before a student realizes how valuable a teacher’s contribution is.

  2. I sometimes have a good laugh when I get back my students’ evaluations. It certainly reflects the median tendency of human beings. The curve is quite bell-like. Most humans are central tendency disposed. Then there are the extremes…they offer opportunity for humor, and despair! Unanchored in Christ educators suffer the most!

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