Using students evaluations to evaluate faculty

As my semester gets closer to the end I start receiving emails about end of the semester student evaluations. These evaluations are used to determine if faculty are doing their job (i.e., teaching). So should these be used to evaluate faculty? Well since part of my job in corporate settings was to evaluate training let’s compare what is done in corporate america to determine the success of the course vs what is done in education. In corporate we generally used Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model. As you are reading this keep in mind that student evaluations only measure step 1 of this model. So…

Step 1 – Student reactions. Did students like the training, process, course, instructor? This is the lowest and least important level. It doesn’t tell us if the course, instructor, or training was effective at all. This is the only thing student evaluations measure. Thus faculty are critiqued on whether students liked them or not. Not whether they actually taught anything at all.

Step 2 – Learning. Did the students learn what was taught? This is pretty important. If they learned the content then the course was effective. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 3 – Transfer. Are students able to apply what was learned to their jobs? This is very important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 4 – ROI (return on investment). Was the training worth it? What were the benefits of the training? This is extremely important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

As you can see student evaluations are not very¬†important. I mean they tell us whether students liked the course or not. However, thats it. They do not even tell us if students learned anything. Essentially students could rate a course where they learned nothing really high and vice versa making these kind of evaluations worthless when they are by themselves. Thus should faculty be evaluated with these? No. At least not as the only measure and certainly not as an important measure. It’s a pretty worthless measure. There is a reason that we use these other steps in corporate settings – we know that they are meaningful yet for some reason higher education has yet to recognize that.

Essentially what I am trying to say is that if I tried to rate a course or teacher in corporate settings the same way I did in higher ed I would be fired.