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Colleges Are Getting Smarter About Student Evaluations. Here's How

Original Content Publication Date: 01/13/2019

Summary

Student evaluations have been used as a basis for promotion and recognition in academia for years, but research shows that student evaluations are full of biases and do not accurately reflect the quality of instruction received. Some universities are seeking to improve the way their evaluations and the way they make tenure/promotion decisions.

So what can a school do to solve this problem?

On a school wide basis, less emphasis can be placed on student evaluations in hiring and promotion decisions. Institutions could also be more thoughtful about what kind of questions are included on these evaluations. Questions where students give a numerical ranking or answer have been shown to be the least effective and most susceptible to bias, while questions asking students to ponder and comment on specific strategies or elements of a course help to eliminate bias. One concern that has been raised is that students have not been trained in pedagogy and cannot give feedback regarding best practices. Having other educators observe and review classes, while not immune to bias, can be a more reliable way to measure teaching skill.

One suggestion for individual educators is to create your own student evaluations that you give out halfway through a course. This allows for you to receive real-time feedback that will allow you make changes and improve your course as you go. 

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