Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching

Myths about Student Ratings: Answers

Myths about Student Ratings: A Quiz

Test your knowledge of how reliable student ratings are as a source of information about teaching effectiveness.

  1. Student ratings are just popularity contests.
  2. Student rating forms are unreliable and invalid.
  3. Student ratings on single global items (e.g., Overall, the instructor is excellent) are accurate measures of an instructor’s effectiveness.
  4. Students give lower ratings to instructors with high academic standards.
  5. The grades students receive in a course are highly correlated with their ratings of the course and instructor.
  6. Student ratings are influenced by whether the course is required or an elective.

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Myths about Student Ratings: Answers

Myth. Much research indicates that students are good judges of teaching effectiveness. A teacher’s “popularity” with students may very often be related to her/his enthusiasm for the subject matter, which tends to increase student interest and engagement.

Too often, this is a fact. Student rating forms that are designed by departmental committees or individual faculty with little knowledge of how to construct valid survey items are likely to be unreliable. However, there are many carefully developed instruments available that have been tested and shown to be reliable and valid.

Probably a myth. There is limited research, but it appears that such ratings should not be used as evidence of teaching effectiveness.

Myth. Students tend to give high ratings to instructors with high expectations and courses in which they learned a lot. However, students give low ratings to instructors who are perceived as unfair.

The jury is out. Studies have reported widely inconsistent relationships between grades and ratings.

Fact. Students taking a required course are more likely to give it low ratings.

Adapted from: Carnegie' Mellon's “Student Ratings: 15 Common Beliefs and Misconceptions” (No longer available)

Written by Mary Ann Cain
Department of English and Linguistics

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