By Jacqueline Dewar, Loyola Marymount University
What happens to the data from your teaching evaluations? Who sees the data? Are your numbers compared with other data? What interpretations or conclusions result? How well informed is everyone, including you, about the limitations of this data, and conditions that should be satisfied before it is used in evaluating teaching?
Despite many shortcomings of student ratings of teaching (SRT), some of which I mention below, their use is likely to continue indefinitely because the data is easy to collect, and gathering it requires little time on the part of students or faculty. I refer to them as student ratings, not evaluations, because “evaluation” indicates that a judgment of value or worth has been made (by the students), while “ratings” denote data that need interpretation (by the faculty member, colleagues, or administrators) (Benton & Cashin, 2011).
Readers may be asked to interpret the data from their SRT on their annual reviews or in their applications for tenure or promotion. They may even find themselves on committees charged with reviewing the overall teaching evaluation process or the particular form that students use at their institutions, as I did. For these reasons, I thought it might be helpful to discuss some general issues concerning SRT and then present a few practical guidelines for using and interpreting SRT data.