Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness
Philip B. Stark, PhD, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of California at Berkeley
Thursday, April 26, 2018 | Presentation* 10:30–11:30 | Informal reception 11:30–12:30 | Consultations by appointment** 2:00–3:00 & 4:00–4:30
*Applied Sciences Building 10900 (Presentation Studio)
**Education Building 7639, Burnaby campus; contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Student evaluations of teaching (SET) are widely used in academic personnel decisions as a measure of teaching effectiveness. Observational evidence shows that student ratings vary with instructor gender, ethnicity, and attractiveness; with course rigor, mathematical content, and format; and with students’ grade expectations. Randomized experiments show that SET are negatively associated with objective measures of teaching effectiveness and biased against female instructors by an amount that can cause more effective instructors to get lower SET than less effective instructors. Gender bias affects how students rate even “objective” aspects of teaching, such as how promptly assignments are graded. It is not possible to adjust for the bias, because it depends on many factors, including course topic and student gender. Students are uniquely situated to observe some aspects of teaching and they should be consulted, but for the purposes of evaluating and improving teaching quality, SET are biased, unreliable, and subject to strategic manipulation. Reliance on SET for employment decisions disadvantages protected groups and may violate the Canadian Human Rights Act.
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