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Students' Perceptions of the Teaching Evaluation Process

Students' Perceptions of the Teaching Evaluation Process

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Published by mcsm1th
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, MA. April 1990.
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, MA. April 1990.

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Published by: mcsm1th on Oct 08, 2009
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05/17/2010

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Students’ Perceptions of the Teaching Evaluation ProcessM Cecil Smith Northern Illinois UniversityRussell N. CarneySouthwest Missouri State University4/2/1990Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational ResearchAssociation, Boston, April 1990. 
 
 Abstract A 51-item questionnaire was developed to survey students regarding their  perceptions of the teaching evaluation process. The questionnaire was then administeredto 116 undergraduates. Results indicated that although students were uncertain regardingthe uses made of teaching evaluations, they nevertheless reported taking the opportunityto evaluate their professors seriously. This article summarizes the students’ responses indetail, and argues that the purposes of teaching evaluations need to be made clear tostudents. Their apparent lack of knowledge may contribute to the cynicism which they--and perhaps the public at large--feel toward the work university professors are doing asteachers.
 
Students’ Perceptions of the Teaching Evaluation ProcessMost professors are familiar with the cynical attitude held by many studentstoward end-of-the-semester teaching evaluations--an attitude that professors themselvesmay inadvertently promote. Such evaluations are often administered haphazardly, or evensomewhat scornfully, and their subsequent use may be unknown to students. Given thissituation, four questions come to mind: (1) Do students understand how evaluations areused? (2) If not, what is the nature of their misconceptions? (3) Do they take theopportunity to evaluate their professors seriously? And, (4) do students believe that professors consider seriously students’ comments and use the feedback students provide?We will return to these questions later in this paper.Much research has accumulated over the past two decades concerning issues of the validity and reliability of various evaluation instruments (e.g., Aubrecht, 1981;Costin, Greenough, & Menges, 1971; Marsh, 1984). More specifically, a limited number of studies have been conducted in which students’ knowledge of the uses of teachingevaluations (e.g., improvement of teaching vs. salary/promotion/tenure considerations)was manipulated (for a review, see Feldman, 1979). It appears that informing studentsthat teaching evaluations will be used for official purposes such as salary, promotion, andtenure considerations tends to produce more favorable ratings than if they are told that the purpose is for instructor feedback and course improvement. However, across studies, theadvantage for “official purposes” has tended to be fairly small, and not always in thisdirection. More positive ratings have been interpreted by some as reflecting a leniencyerror (e.g., Wherry, 1952). However, Feldman (1979) points out that another explanation

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