Student Evaluation of Faculty: Effects of Purpose on Pattern

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Much of the existing research addressing student ratings of faculty has focused on psychometric properties of the rating process or on physical characteristics of courses and individuals. Less explored is the cognitive processes of students, as evaluators, and the administrative purposes for which outcomes from student evaluations are used. To determine if students used different cognitive sets as a function of the explicit purpose for which ratings are obtained, a field experiment was conducted. Explicit purposes for course evaluations were manipulated to include a control condition, a formative condition (instructional improvement), and a summative condition (salary increase). These conditions served as the classification variable in a discriminant analysis and six different dimensions of classroom performance, as assessed by students, served as the discriminating variables. Results indicate that the purpose of assessment fails to influence the pattern of faculty ratings provided by students. From an administrative perspective, these findings have practical implications both for the collection of student evaluations and for the use of student ratings.

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