For years, one of the most standard practices in
higher education has been what’s called “student
evaluation of teaching,” also known by its acronym
SET. This is a process that is carried out in just about
every college and university course every semester or
term. They are used essentially to measure how effective
a teacher is by surveying student satisfaction.
And the results of these surveys are used to make
many important decisions, such as whether or not
faculty members should be granted tenure – or even
keep their jobs.
A new study, however, is challenging the conventional
wisdom that there is a correlation between
student evaluations and learning. The study, titled
“Meta-analysis of Faculty's Teaching Effectiveness:
Student Evaluation of Teaching Ratings and Student
Learning are not Related,” concludes that SETs are
unreliable due to various kinds of biases against
instructors, and question whether students learn
more in the courses taught by highly rated instructors.