Here’s an Inside Higher Ed article on a report from the American Association of University Professors based on a survey of 9,000 professors.  It confirms what we already know about Student Evaluations (which are really student satisfaction surveys).

Research demonstrates that student evaluations can be valuable among several sources of input on faculty teaching but need to be combined with other sources including peer observations, syllabus review, portfolio analysis and teaching philosophy and reflection, among other approaches,” she said. “Single metrics of teaching have not been found to provide a complete enough picture for improvement.”

In the training industry we called them happy sheets.   We produced them for the people paying the bills, knowing that the responses didn’t really mean that much in terms of changing behaviour, which is what you are really trying to achieve.

Respondents who said their institutions had adopted online evaluations reported much lower student return rates than those who stuck with paper evaluations: 20-40 percent versus 80 percent or higher.

“With such a rate of return, all pretensions to ‘validity’ are rendered dubious,” the paper says. “Faculty report that the comments coming in are from the students on either of the extremes: those very happy with their experience and/or their grade, and those very unhappy.”

We saw the same drop in response rates when we shifted from handed out paper surveys to online surveys.   There is a clash between cost efficiencies and functional efficiencies.

In reality we need to be doing something else.  We actually want to evaluate teaching effectiveness.   And for that it’s worth looking at Bill Goffe’s contribution in the comments.

Teaching practice inventory

This inventory can aid instructors and departments in reflecting on their teaching. It has been tested with several hundred university instructors and courses from mathematics and four science disciplines. Most instructors complete the inventory in 10 min or less, and the results allow meaningful comparisons of the teaching used for the different courses and instructors within a department and across different departments.

You could also have a look at Bill Thalheimer’s course review template.  It’s based on Workplace training but most of it applies to (or should apply to) Higher Ed teaching practice.