24. Is that what you think? Exploring commonly held perceptions about student evaluations

Sarah Stein and Adon Moskal (HEDC)

Despite research that suggests tertiary teaching staff recognise the general usefulness of student evaluations (e.g., Beran & Rokosh, 2009; Nasser & Fresko 2002; Penny & Coe, 2004; Schmelkin, Spencer & Gellman, 1997), misconceptions persist regarding their reliability and validity (Benton & Cashin, 2012). Following a survey of over 1000 New Zealand higher education staff, including 60 in-depth follow-up interviews, Stein et al. (2013) compiled six composite ‘case studies’ exemplifying a range of teacher perceptions of student evaluations (Stein et al., 2013).

In this workshop/discussion session, 6 panelists will take on the roles of the personalities depicted in the case studies and ‘debate’ a range of commonly-held opinions about student evaluations. Audience members will engage with the discussion via clickers (audience response system), offering their own feedback on the views being presented. As reported by Simpson and Oliver (2006), the use of clicker technology in conjunction with a seminar presentation can:

  • support an individual’s active engagement with ideas;
  • encourage safe (anonymous) participation from all members of the audience;
  • foster a sense of community within the group; and
  • summarise group understanding and illuminate different viewpoints.

A live graphical representation of the ‘mood’ of the room will be constantly displayed throughout the proceedings. In addition, input from the workshop facilitators about the Stein et al. (2013) study will provide the basis for general discussion about the range of perceptions illustrated through the panelists’ presentations.


Benton, S. L., & Cashin, W. E. (2012). Student ratings of teaching: A summary of research and literature. (IDEA Paper No. 50). Manhattan, KS: The IDEA Center. Retrieved June 21, 2013, from http://www.theideacenter.org/category/helpful-resources/knowledge-base/idea-papers

Beran, T. N., & Rokosh, J. L. (2009). Instructors’ perspectives on the utility of student ratings of instruction. Instructional Science, 37(2), 171-184.

Nasser, F., & Fresko, B. (2002). Faculty views of student evaluation of college teaching. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 27(2), 187-198.

Penny, A., & Coe, R. (2004). Effectiveness of consultation on student ratings feedback: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 74(2), 215-253.

Simpson, V., & Oliver, M. (2006). Using electronic voting systems in lectures. Retrieved June 21, 2013, from http://tlc.zmml.uni-bremen.de/resource_files/resources/386/ElectronicVoting Systemsin_lectures.pdf

Schmelkin, T. A., Spencer, K. J., & Gellman, E. S. (1997). Faculty perspectives on course and teacher evaluations. Research in Higher Education, 38(5), 575-592.

Stein, S. J., Spiller, D., Terry, S., Harris, T., Deaker, L., & Kennedy, J. (2013). Tertiary teachers and student evaluations: Never the twain shall meet? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, DOI:10.1080/02602938.2013.767876.

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