• Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: : Student ratings of courses and of instruction: are they useful in models of achievement?

    Author(s): Ellen Jansen and Marjon Bruinsma
    Institution(s): University of Groningen, the Netherlands
    Session: Research seminar  

    Even though questionnaires to gather student ratings of instruction and courses are widely used in Higher Education the uses of the results of these questionnaires varies enormously. For example, on the one hand promotions or tenures depend on 'good' evaluation results. On the other hand these results are the basis for improvement of courses or instruction. Despite the fact that student ratings originally aim at the monitoring of and the improvement of instruction these ratings might also play a useful role in models of achievement. This presentation discusses the usefulness of student ratings in models of achievement. Beside that some preliminary results from a research project at the University of Groningen aimed at the relation between course-satisfaction, study behaviour and persistence are discussed.

    Research description 
    For some years now projects on the theme effectiveness of curriculum and instruction in Higher Education have been a major focus of attention at the University of Groningen. The data used in the study reported here was collected within this framework. In this research project three departments participated, namely a department from the Faculty of Arts (N=147, male=41, female=106), one from the Faculty of Mathematics & Natural Sciences (N=76, male = 36, female=40) and one from the Faculty of Economics (N=274, male=207, female=67). This paper takes a closer look at students from the Faculty of Arts. All first-year students of this department, including those who started in 1999 and those who started in 2000 were asked to participate. Three kinds of data were collected during this first year namely, 1) student ratings of most of the courses, these ratings were collected after each course, and, 2) study behaviour data, which were collected on two occasions, at the beginning and at the end of the year, and, finally, 3) achievement data, which we obtained from the student administration system. Each student was asked to fill in their student registration number. This resulted in a unique database with data on student ratings, study behaviour and study progress linked on student level.

    During the presentation results on the relation between ratings and grading are discussed. This relation seems important in light of the debate about the assumption that course grades are positively related with course evaluations (see for example Theall et al., 2000; Stumpf and Freedman 1979). In this debate the assumption that good teaching leads to good learning, and to higher satisfaction and higher grades might be countered by the argument that students rate courses based on the grades they expect. However in the Netherlands Van Os (1999) did not find any evidence for this so-called leniency effect. Moreover, this presentation shows that student ratings might be a useful addition in the research on student learning. After having looked at the relation between ratings and grading, we will discuss the relation between ratings, measurements of study behaviour and information processing, work discipline and motivation on the one hand and study outcomes on the other hand which has been analyzed using a structural equation model.


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