teaching is one of the areas taken into consideration for decisions
regarding reappointment at the BFE. Student ratings (often referred
to as “course evaluations”) provide important and unique
information about student perceptions, and are frequently used as an
indicator of teaching effectiveness. However, they should form only
one part of a comprehensive system of instructor evaluation as they
represent student reports concerning a particular course at a specific
point in time, and cannot alone document the full range of teaching
responsibilities and accomplishments of an instructor.
The challenge, as with all data, is to interpret student ratings in
ways that are meaningful and justifiable so that instructors, directors,
and program administrators can be assured that the decisions drawn from
them are appropriate. The following suggestions are drawn from what
is now a large body of research literature, representing over thirty
years of investigation into the value and effective use of student course
Ensure that the purpose of the evaluation is made clear to respondents.
Specify how the results will be used and by whom. Encourage students
to complete the evaluations and emphasize that their input will have
a significant impact on the quality of teaching and learning.
Time of distribution: the BFE ratings procedure allows students to
complete the forms at their convenience during an established time
Ratings of global items, (e.g., “Overall the professor is a
good teacher”; “I learned a great deal in this course”)
are most useful in providing general impressions of overall instructional
effectiveness, e.g., exceptional, effective, adequate, unacceptable.
Responses to these questions are found to correlate most consistently
with measures of actual student achievement. However, given the complexity
and variety of variables which may influence course ratings, such
Class size (smaller classes tend to receive higher ratings, especially
those having fewer than 15 students, followed by classes of 15
to 35, and over 100. Classes containing between 35 and 100 students
appear to be rated least favorably.),
Course level (higher level courses may obtain higher ratings than
introductory level courses),
and the wide range of variables influencing student achievement
(such as student ability, personal goals, study habits and individual
interests) it is important to consider the entire pattern of ratings
results from a number of different courses and classes of students
over a period of time to form a more comprehensive and meaningful
understanding of an individual’s teaching.
comments should not be used for personnel decisions, although they
can provide extremely useful insights to instructors for formative
In the Teaching Portfolio, consider how instructors have made use
of and responded to the student ratings. Look for evidence of thoughtful
reflection, and efforts made to improve, develop and enhance teaching
in response to feedback provided by students.
Student ratings of courses and teaching can be used for a number
of purposes. Response patterns can help instructors identify areas
of their courses and teaching they may want to focus on for development.
They also provide instructors with information about their teaching
effectiveness which can enable them to document the full range of
their teaching responsibilities and accomplishments. When student
ratings are used to inform others, they need to be interpreted in
a meaningful context so as to avoid misunderstanding or inappropriate
speculation by readers or reviewers.
for improvement and development:
Written comments: These are useful for teaching improvement since
they often represent a full range of opinions (usually the most positive
and most negative) and may provide insight into why some students
had difficulty learning. Written comments often help clarify and illuminate
some of the observed tabular response patterns.
Ratings and consultation: Research shows that course ratings are most
useful in improving teaching effectiveness when coupled with appropriate