Evaluations of teaching effectiveness have taken many forms over the years, but none have been as persistent or commonplace as student ratings of instruction (SRI). SRIs have become a fundamental component of evaluating faculty effectiveness in higher education. Support for SRIs comes from end-users of the data who believe that students are uniquely positioned to evaluate faculty based on their experiences and perceptions of the instruction they received. Pragmatically, institutions tend to rely on SRI results for teacher evaluations because they reason that students learn more from faculty who are highly rated by students. However, to what degree is this enthusiasm warranted? Are SRIs reliable, valid, or trustworthy at all?
The main goals of this chapter are to present an overview of SRI research, explain ways of preparing students for SRIs (both formative and summative), and present methods for teachers to use when examining the SRI data. To these ends, this chapter will briefly review the SRI research, including evidence for the value of SRI data despite commonly held misconceptions about the possible influence of factors such as class size, GPA, gender, and professor rank. Attention is then given to understanding how to improve responses to questions that tap constructs students are unlikely to be readily able to respond to, such as “Did this course improve your critical thinking skills?” and to general agreement questions about learning, such as “The pacing of the materials was appropriate.” Techniques for interpreting constructed responses from students, such as “Stop lecturing!” are also provided. Finally, the paper moves on to highlighting the connection between collecting and acting on formative classroom surveys that support positive transfer to end-of-term SRIs and offers methods to analyze SRIs individually as well as outlining an approach to teacher development with SRI data and teacher-centered consultations by PD programs.
Keywords: student feedback, college teaching, professional development, teacher effectiveness
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