College students across the U.S. are asked every year to evaluate their instructors — but University of Northern Iowa researchers have found that student evaluations are flawed and often misused. Marketing professor Dennis Clayson says student’s who get good grades give good evaluations. He says evaluations have been explained that good teachers get good evaluations, because the students feel the teacher is doing a good job.
But Clayson says the research shows the “grades are purely related to the student-teacher evaluation without any regard to learning or anything else.” Clayson says it was hard to find a link between a good evaluation and a teacher’s ability to teach. Clayson says there may be a small correlation, but he says for the same teacher in the same class, when a grade went up, the evaluation went up, and when the grade went down, the evaluation went down.
Clayson say it’s theoretically possible a teacher may become a better teacher for a person as their grades go up or down, but he says “that’s highly unlikely.” Clayson doesn’t know how to change the evaluation to give a better view of how an instructor is doing. He says that’s a difficult question because a lot of schools typically refuse to define what good teaching is, then the schools turn around and try to evaluate good teaching.
Clayson says the mood and demeanor of a teacher also plays a role in the evaluation of students. Clayson says everyone has fond memories of teachers who we learned from, but the teachers were not very personable. He says, “Personality was another factor that turned out to be highly related to the evaluation.”
Clayson has this view on improving teacher evaluations. “I would eliminate it altogether. I think at this point in time it actually harms the education of the child for a variety of reasons,” Clayson says. He says there should still be a way for students to tell administrators there’s a problem in the classroom, as he says some teachers just don’t do a good job. The study followed more than 700 students for an entire semester.