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An evaluation of course evaluations

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Student ratings of teaching have been used, studied, and debated for almost a century. This article examines student ratings of teaching from a statistical perspective. The common practice of relying on averages of student teaching evaluation scores as the primary measure of teaching effectiveness for promotion and tenure decisions should be abandoned for substantive and statistical reasons: There is strong evidence that student responses to questions of “effectiveness” do not measure teaching effectiveness. Response rates and response variability matter. And comparing averages of categorical responses, even if the categories are represented by numbers, makes little sense. Student ratings of teaching are valuable when they ask the right questions, report response rates and score distributions, and are balanced by a variety of other sources and methods to evaluate teaching.

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Most cited references 32

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Reflective faculty evaluation: enhancing teaching and determining faculty effectiveness

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Student Evaluation of College Teaching Effectiveness: a brief review

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Making students' evaluations of teaching effectiveness effective: The critical issues of validity, bias, and utility.

Author and article information

[1]Department of Statistics, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
[2]Center for Teaching and Learning, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
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ScienceOpen Research
29 September 2014
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© 2014 P. B. Stark and R. Freishtat.

This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at

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