What Really Happens When Students Rate Teachers?

It seems intuitive that students learn more from professors who receive high ratings from other students. However, new research called “Studies in Educational Evaluation” proves the opposite. Students do not learn more from professors with higher ratings.

setimageCommonly known as “student evaluations of teaching” or “SET” in academics, a new study finds that student reviews of professors have limited validity. As such, caution should be exercised by students when using this measure as the main way to evaluate a school, degree program or select a course.

According to the study, which Inside Higher Ed recently covered, “Our up-to-date meta-analysis of all multi-section studies revealed no significant correlations between [evaluation] ratings and learning.”

Along with implications for students who evaluate and make choices based upon the SET criteria, results from the study also are critical to educational institutions. Findings from this study, “suggest that institutions focused on student learning and career success may want to abandon SET ratings as a measure of faculty’s teaching effectiveness.”

The paper advises universities to begin giving teaching evaluations appropriate “weight” in personnel decisions such as tenure and high-stakes measures of teaching effectiveness. It also calls into question other decisions that use flawed data related to instructor and course review.

The study seems to sum it up appropriately saying, It’s “astonishing” that poor data have driven the conversation
around evaluations for some 30 years.

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