Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New Study Questions Validity of Student Evaluations of Teaching

Student course evaluations, or Student Evaluations of Teaching (SET), which are now almost universal practice in colleges and universities, play a very important role in evaluating faculty, sometimes even for promotion and tenure.  But what if there is no relation between what students think of a course and how much they learned in it?  A new study reported on in Inside Higher Education "suggests that past analyses linking student achievement to high student teaching evaluation ratings are flawed, a mere “artifact of small sample sized studies and publication bias.” Here is a key part of the explanation:
The entire notion that we could measure professors' teaching effectiveness by simple ways such as asking students to answer a few questions about their perceptions of their course experiences, instructors' knowledge and the like seems unrealistic given well-established findings from cognitive sciences such as strong associations between learning and individual differences including prior knowledge, intelligence, motivation and interest,” the paper says. “Individual differences in knowledge and intelligence are likely to influence how much students learn in the same course taught by the same professor. 
So, apparently there is good data against the use of SETs, at least to measure teaching effectiveness (maybe they are useful for something else), and the cognitive sciences offer solid reasons why we shouldn't expect them to be a good measure of teaching effectiveness.

Here is the whole story:

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