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The Student as Godfather? The Impact of Student Ratings on Academia

Centra, John A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Administrative Policy, College Students, Curriculum Evaluation, Higher Education, Student Evaluation of Teacher Performance, Teacher Response


The impact or possible impact of college student ratings on the individual instructor, on teaching generally, on students, on administrators, and on the college is discussed. A study of over 400 faculty members in which half were assigned to an experimental group and half were controls, showed that as a result of student ratings on an instructor's practices, changes in instruction occurred after only a half semester for instructors who were "unrealistic" in how they viewed their teaching, and a wider variety of instructors changed if given more than a half semester and if they were given minimal information to help them interpret their scores. Some adverse effects of student ratings are that the ratings do not allow for individual styles of teaching, and they encourage traditional modes of teaching. Flexibility in the employment of student ratings is extremely critical. Student ratings influence college administrators in that these evaluations make the administrator's job easier and more effective. Student evaluations may be contributing to the current interest in administrator evaluations by faculty members. Where student ratings have been incorporated into faculty evaluation procedures, the impact on students is likely to be positive. Probably the major impact of student ratings on students is provided by published course and teacher critiques. A worthwhile use of student ratings is that of providing departments with information about the effectiveness of their offerings as seen by students. Focusing on weaknesses highlighted by student evaluations could be applied at the college level.

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