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The student evaluation of teaching: its failure as a research program, and as an administrative guide

  • Robert Sproule

    ()

    (Bishop's University, Sherbrooke, Québec, J1M 0C8, Canada)

  • C?lin Vâlsan

    ()

    (Bishop's University, Sherbrooke, Québec, J1M 0C8, Canada)

This paper points up the methodological inadequacy of the "student evaluation of teaching" as a research program. We do this by reference to three, interrelated arguments. The first is that the student evaluation of teaching cannot claim to capture the wisdom of a crowd because, as a research program, it fails to meet Surowiecki's conditions for the existence and articulation of the wisdom of a crowd. The second argument extends the first, by stating: (a) the "student evaluation of teaching" research program fails to provide the methodological controls needed to differentiate cause from effect, or put differently (b) the methodological underpinnings of this research program is tantamount to the misapplication of a closed-system paradigm to an open social system. The third argument has two parts. These are that this research program is predicated on: (a) a false analogy between the workings of a business and a university, and therefore (b) on a mischaracterization of the student-professor relationship. These three arguments, these three failures, suggest that the "student evaluation of teaching" research program is methodologically ill-conceived and incoherent, and therefore cannot, with any credulity, serve as a guide to the administration and governance of a university.

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Article provided by Academy of Economic Studies - Bucharest, Romania in its journal The AMFITEATRU ECONOMIC journal.

Volume (Year): 11 (2009)
Issue (Month): 25 (February)
Pages: 125-150

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Handle: RePEc:aes:amfeco:v:11:y:2009:i:25:p:125-150
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  1. Lawson, Tony, 1989. "Realism and Instrumentalism in the Development of Econometrics," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 236-58, January.
  2. von Hayek, Friedrich August, 1989. "The Pretence of Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(6), pages 3-7, December.
  3. Bruce Caldwell, 1997. "Hayek and Socialism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 1856-1890, December.
  4. Bunge, Mario, 2000. "Systemism: the alternative to individualism and holism," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 147-157.
  5. Bradley A. Hansen & Mary Eschelbach Hansen, 2005. "Don't Put the Cart Before the Horse: Teaching the Economic Approach to Empirical Research," Working Papers 2005-12, American University, Department of Economics.
  6. Denis, Andy, 2003. "Methodology and policy prescription in economic thought: a response to Mario Bunge," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 219-226, May.
  7. Krautmann, Anthony C. & Sander, William, 1999. "Grades and student evaluations of teachers," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 59-63, February.
  8. Sproule, Robert, 2002. "The underdetermination of instructor performance by data from the student evaluation of teaching," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 287-294, June.
  9. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Parker, Amy, 2005. "Beauty in the classroom: instructors' pulchritude and putative pedagogical productivity," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 369-376, August.
  10. Victoria Chick & Sheila Dow, 2005. "The meaning of open systems," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 363-381.
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