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Student evaluations of teaching: no measure for the TEF

The National Student Survey, one of the pillars of the TEF, is more likely to measure enjoyment than learning, says Wolfgang Stroebe. The UK government’s recent confirmation that the National Student Survey will be part of the teaching excellence framework has made even more urgent the question of whether satisfaction surveys are a reliable measure of teaching quality. My recent scrutiny of the evidence from the US suggests that they are not. Customer satisfaction surveys are, of course, commonplace in the commercial world. But surprisingly enough, higher education was probably the first sector to adopt them. Student evaluation of teaching (SET) was developed in the 1920s by two US psychologists, Herman Remmers and Edwin Guthrie, and used at their respective institutions, Purdue University and the University of Washington. Originally, the evaluations were intended only to help instructors improve their teaching. But they were soon adopted by department chairs and faculty deans to help them make important personnel decisions, such as hiring, salary increases and promotions. By now, these ratings have become standard procedure in colleges and universities in the US, as well as in Europe, and are seen as the single most important indicator of teacher effectiveness. There is one […]

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