Student Evaluation Systems provide valuable information to faculty, students and administrators. They can help to improve the structure, content and teaching of courses and are a critical part of quality assurance processes. At Victoria University of Wellington, student evaluations have been a central part of the curriculum since 1988. Currently, they are done using paper-based questionnaires that allow students to answer questions on a 5-point Lickert scale and write in their comments. The results of these evaluations are very important in influencing the quality of teaching at VUW and are also an integral part of the staff promotion process.
Students are paying for their education and their view of the value they receive for that money will have an impact on the reputation of the institution. For this reason it is vital that institutions find ways to ensure that they are providing the highest quality instruction possible. A key way this is done is through student evaluations. Traditionally these have involved the students evaluating all aspects of their learning experience including classroom teaching, library services, student support, sports facilities and catering.
Often these evaluations take the form of an anonymous questionnaire with students rating the lecturers and courses on a range of characteristics such as course content, teaching methods and the overall effectiveness of the lecturer. At VUW these are typically administered at the lecturer level and can be very influential in the decisions made regarding lecturers’ staffing.
The value of Student Evaluation Systems can be enhanced by using a combination of different assessment tools to evaluate student learning. These tools can include grading rubrics, online submissions, plagiarism detection, survey tools, peer-to-peer assessment, class polling and other techniques that help instructors assess student performance beyond simple grading. By using a variety of different assessment tools, instructors can also ensure that their evaluations are more valid and reliable.
While many instructors conflate student assessment with grading, it is very important to remember that grades do not tell us how well students are attaining specific learning objectives. Traditional grading is not a measure of student achievement, it is merely an attempt to assign a value to an abstract construct called “student learning”.
A more useful approach is one that focuses on measuring the progress students make over time through the use of techniques such as value-added modelling. These methodologies enable fairer comparisons between teachers than judgments based on summative assessments at a single point in time.
One way to enhance the validity of Student Evaluation Systems is to make sure that they are as easy to use as possible. This can be done by ensuring that the assessment system integrates with the existing systems used by both students and instructors. This will increase the likelihood of students completing the evaluation and ensure that the information they provide is as valid as possible.
It is also essential that the evaluation process be automated wherever possible. This will allow students to complete the evaluations quickly and easily. Having the system run automatically will also reduce the risk of inadvertent or incomplete responses. Finally, it is important to set reminders for students to complete the evaluation so that they do not procrastinate or forget.