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Margin Notes

Course evaluations work – really


A new Canadian report on student course evaluations – the bane of many university faculty members – concludes that they are valid and useful instruments. However, the report also finds that there are “significant barriers” to the effective use of such evaluations, including:

• Persistent myths and misconceptions about variables affecting evaluation results;
• Unclear concepts and definitions of effective teaching;
• Insufficient education about the goals, uses and validity of course evaluations for students, faculty and administrators;
• Poor presentation and contextualization of evaluation data; and
• Inconsistent and inequitable policies and practices regarding the implementation and administration of course evaluations.

The report, Student Course Evaluations: Research, Models and Trends, is published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. The authors are Pamela Gravestock, associate director of the Office of Teaching Advancement at the University of Toronto, and Emily Gregor-Greenleaf, a doctoral candidate in the Higher Education Group at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at U of T.

The authors say the report “represents the first review and summary of existing research on student course evaluations from a Canadian perspective.” It includes a lengthy appendix containing sample evaluation instruments from 10 Canadian universities.

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. John Authors / November 21, 2008 at 07:02

    I don’t trust any reports that come from ‘Education Experts’ because they have a conflict of interest. Evaluations and reports are their bread and butter. Their work depends on ever more evaluation and paper work.

    Personally speaking, although I get good evaluations (4.5/5), I don’t value them at all. They are at best just popularity contests and at worst distort the education system for the worse.


  2. Andrew / February 13, 2009 at 12:17

    The previous post is a perfect example of the type of misinformed attitude scholarly research in this area helps to overcome. You may want to actually read the report.

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