Students Evaluations of Instructors’ Performance in Higher Education Institutions: What Research Has to Say


  • Wossenu Yimam Assistant. Professor, Institute of Educational Research


The evaluation of instructors’ teaching performance by their students has been used since the early 1920's. There has been a tremendous increase in interest regarding students’ evaluations of teaching and this topic has been the subject of a substantial body of research spanning over 70 years with nearly 2000 studies. Most of these researches show that student evaluations are generally reliable and valid methods for gathering data on teaching. However, student evaluations are certainly not a perfect measure of teaching. To help substantiate and extend data from student evaluations, the evaluation process should include the triangulation of results from student evaluations, colleague evaluations, and supervisor evaluations. In light of this view, this paper attempts to discuss the following issues that are mostly raised in higher education research: (1) Are student evaluations reliable and valid? (2) Are students able to make correct judgments prior to having been away from the course, and possibly from the university, for a number of years? (3) Are student evaluations a popularity contest? (4) Do grades students receive or expect to receive affect their evaluations of the course and instructor? (5) Do extraneous variables bias student evaluations? (6) Can student evaluations be used to improve instruction and/or make personnel decisions? Finally, the paper tries to make conclusions and forward recommendations based on critical review of available literature.