The Utility of Student Ratings of Instruction for Students, Faculty, and Administrators: A "Consequential Validity" Study
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Students, faculty and administrators at a major Canadian university were surveyed to investigate the utility or "consequential validity" of student ratings of instructors. Of the 1,229 (approximately equal number of males and females) students and alumni, about half (52%) indicated that they had never used the ratings, but of those who did use it, many (47%) reported using it several times to select courses and/or instructors. The majority (84%) of faculty members (n = 357) gave favorable responses about the usefulness of student ratings for improving quality of teaching. Paradoxically, even though faculty members were positive about the student ratings, they did not generally use them to make changes in their teaching. The majority (87%) of administrators (n = 52) stated that they use the student ratings for various purposes including decisions about faculty merit and tenure. Students, faculty and administrators considered the overall course instruction to be the most useful type of information derived from the student ratings. The results of the present study indicate that while the utility of data from student ratings of instructors is quite variable, there is evidence of "consequential validity" particularly from administrators.