Less-Than-Perfect Judges: Evaluating Student Evaluations

Susanna Calkins, Marina Micari
decisions, the gradual democratization of the nation's campuses, and a developing consumerism in the nation's students-wrought tension and dissent within the higher education community. These tensions have manifested themselves in the debate over student ratings in different ways, often fixating on notions of validity, but revealing underlying complex challenges to the traditional structures of power and authority informing the changing faculty-undergraduate encounter. Certainly, research about
more » ... nly, research about student ratings has been exhaustive over the last 50 years. Several thousand studies have been published, many concerned with issues of validity and reliability of evaluation instruments. 3 Yet, few studies have tackled the issue of student ratings in the context of the relationship between students and faculty and the place of higher education in society. 4 In this article, we examine the S tudent ratings, 1 first introduced into the college classroom in the late 1920s, have long symbolized the often uneasy relationship between undergraduates and their professors. 2 Originally intended as an impartial and scientific means to gauge teaching performance, by the early 1960s, student ratings had become a site of anxiety and often bitter contest between faculty and students, and between faculty and administrators. Critical forces-such as emerging federal legislation that called for improved teaching in higher education, increasing demands for accountability in higher education, the increasing use of student ratings in personnel and curriculum