The Validity and Utility of Student Evaluations
This paper explores the conundrum of student evaluations. At the end of each school term, nontenured collegiate instructors across disciplines and institutional classifications worry that student evaluations may unfairly derail their careers. Despite the prevalence of published research and opinion pieces, the academy seems far from reaching a consensus on whether or how to use student feedback. This re-examination of claims and the available evidence sets out to ascertain whether student evaluations of teaching provide meaningful information about the quality of teacher performance. Empirical studies reveal problems inherent to professorial evaluation and methodological flaws in the use of these high stakes tools. Nevertheless, the author argues, student evaluations offer useful qualitative and quantitative information about the student experience and the use of such feedback is consistent with social work practice. The author concludes with specific recommendations for the ethical and effective use of student evaluations in higher education.