Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching

Using Student Ratings to Assess Teaching Effectiveness

Adapted from: William E. Cashin, “Student Ratings: Uses and Misuses” Seldin, Changing Practices in Evaluating Teaching. Anker 1999 and John A. Centra, Reflective Faculty Evaluation, Jossey-Bass 1993.

  1. Use student ratings as one source of information. Do not make major changes based on only one source. Other sources can include feedback from colleagues (peer review), self-evaluation, analysis of and reflection on your own teaching logs or journals, classroom assessment techniques (CATs), and alumni surveys.
  2. Use student rating data as a source of information on the effectiveness of
    • delivery of instruction
    • assessment of learning (i.e., exams, projects, papers, etc.)
    • availability to/treatment of students
    • Recognize that factors which most significantly affect student ratings include:
      • organized and effective delivery of instruction
      • clarity of policies and requirements
      • fairness and respect for students
    • Recognize that factors such as the following may affect student ratings to some extent, but should not be given undue weight:
      • the discipline itself (students tend to rate courses and instruction somewhat lower in certain disciplines)
      • age, gender, teaching experience, class size, time of day, and course level
      • instructor personality and appearance
    • Collect data from at least 10 raters (to ensure statistically reliable data) and from at least 2/3 of the class (to ensure representative data).
  3. Sample across courses and over time.
  4. Look for trends or recurring themes in students’ narrative comments.
  5. Focus on comments that address your teaching behaviors, not you personally.
  6. To help maintain a balanced perspective on student comments (especially critical comments), discuss your student evaluation ratings with a CELT consultant or with a trusted colleague who has had experience with peer review.
  7. In order for feedback to lead to improvement, it should: (a) tell you something you didn’t know and (b) be of value to you, so that you are motivated to use it to enhance your teaching. Also, you must know how to change. If you are uncertain, seek the advice of a CELT consultant to help you think through the process.

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Cashin, W.E. (1995). Student ratings of teaching: The research revisited. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2008 from

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