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Do course evaluations truly reflect student learning? Evidence from an objectively graded post-test

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  • Beleche, Trinidad
  • Fairris, David
  • Marks, Mindy

Abstract

It is difficult to assess the extent to which course evaluations reflect how much students truly learn from a course because valid measures of learning are rarely available. This paper makes use of a unique setting in which students take a common, high-stakes post-test which is centrally graded and serves as the basis for capturing actual student learning. We match these student-specific measures of learning to student-specific course evaluation scores from electronic records and a rich set of student-level covariates, including a pre-test score and other measures of skills prior to entering the course. While small in magnitude, we find a robust positive, and statistically significant, association between our measure of student learning and course evaluations.

Suggested Citation

  • Beleche, Trinidad & Fairris, David & Marks, Mindy, 2012. "Do course evaluations truly reflect student learning? Evidence from an objectively graded post-test," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 709-719.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:31:y:2012:i:5:p:709-719
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2012.05.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Iris Franz, Wan-Ju, 2010. "Grade inflation under the threat of students' nuisance: Theory and evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 411-422, June.
    2. Braga, Michela & Paccagnella, Marco & Pellizzari, Michele, 2014. "Evaluating students’ evaluations of professors," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 71-88.
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    5. Krautmann, Anthony C. & Sander, William, 1999. "Grades and student evaluations of teachers," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 59-63, February.
    6. Scott E. Carrell & James E. West, 2010. "Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(3), pages 409-432, June.
    7. Philip Babcock, 2010. "Real Costs Of Nominal Grade Inflation? New Evidence From Student Course Evaluations," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(4), pages 983-996, October.
    8. Langbein, Laura, 2008. "Management by results: Student evaluation of faculty teaching and the mis-measurement of performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 417-428, August.
    9. Paul Isely & Harinder Singh, 2005. "Do Higher Grades Lead to Favorable Student Evaluations?," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(1), pages 29-42, January.
    10. Mason, Paul M. & Steagall, Jeffrey W. & Fabritius, Michael M., 1995. "Student evaluations of faculty: A new procedure for using aggregate measures of performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 403-416, December.
    11. Bedard, Kelly & Kuhn, Peter, 2008. "Where class size really matters: Class size and student ratings of instructor effectiveness," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 253-265, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Braga, Michela & Paccagnella, Marco & Pellizzari, Michele, 2014. "Evaluating students’ evaluations of professors," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 71-88.
    2. Buurman, Margaretha & Delfgaauw, Josse & Dur, Robert & Zoutenbier, Robin, 2020. "When do teachers respond to student feedback? Evidence from a field experiment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    3. Donghun Cho & Joonmo Cho, 2017. "Does More Accurate Knowledge of Course Grade Impact Teaching Evaluation?," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 12(2), pages 224-240, Spring.
    4. Maarten Goos & Anna Salomons, 2017. "Measuring teaching quality in higher education: assessing selection bias in course evaluations," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 58(4), pages 341-364, June.
    5. Wagner, N. & Rieger, M. & Voorvelt, K.J., 2016. "Gender, ethnicity and teaching evaluations : Evidence from mixed teaching teams," ISS Working Papers - General Series 617, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    6. Scott E. Carrell & Michal Kurlaender, 2020. "My Professor Cares: Experimental Evidence on the Role of Faculty Engagement," NBER Working Papers 27312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Anna Salomons & Maarten Goos, 2014. "Measuring Teaching Quality in Higher Education : Assessing the Problem of Selection Bias in Course Evaluations," Working Papers 14-16, Utrecht School of Economics.
    8. Gorry, Devon, 2017. "The impact of grade ceilings on student grades and course evaluations: Evidence from a policy change," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 133-140.
    9. Rieger, Matthias & Voorvelt, Katherine, 2016. "Gender, ethnicity and teaching evaluations: Evidence from mixed teaching teamsAuthor-Name: Wagner, Natascha," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 79-94.
    10. Talia Bar & Vrinda Kadiyali & Asaf Zussman, 2014. "Online Posting of Teaching Evaluations and Grade Inflation," Working papers 2014-29, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    11. Margaretha Buurman & Josse (J.) Delfgaauw & Robert (A.J.) Dur & Robin Zoutenbier, 2018. "The Effects of Student Feedback to teachers: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 18-042/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    12. Boring, Anne, 2017. "Gender biases in student evaluations of teaching," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 27-41.
    13. Artés, Joaquín & Pedraja-Chaparro, Francisco & Salinas-JiméneZ, Mª del Mar, 2017. "Research performance and teaching quality in the Spanish higher education system: Evidence from a medium-sized university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 19-29.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Course evaluations; Student learning; Grades;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • A2 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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