Update February 9, 2017: The Course Evaluation Project Team is reviewing all of the feedback they’ve received. When that process is complete, they will submit something to Senate to move forward. So the next opportunity for you to engage with this issue is talking to a member of Senate.
The Course Evaluation Project Team (CEPT) was formed in May 2014 to “explore the potential for a new course evaluation model that is informed by best practices and meets the needs of students, faculty, staff and administrators.”
The team released a draft report on November 8, 2016, including a proposed course evaluation tool, and requested feedback from the University community. Members of the Department of Psychology have asked us to share their detailed response to the report here.
This statement of response to the CEPT report comes from various members of the Department of Psychology. We are responding collectively because our discipline offers the technical expertise that is essential for understanding how student questionnaires for course evaluation should be designed and used.
Our statement takes the form of a summary of points that will be developed and documented further over the next few months when one of us serves on an external panel concerning student questionnaires for course evaluation. This panel was convened by the Ontario Council of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) in recognition of the divergence of the increasing weight being placed on student questionnaire ratings at Ontario Universities from the increasing body of evidence indicating that student questionnaires cannot bear this weight because of inherent limitations.
The present statement addresses the following points.
- Extraneous, “biasing” factors render student questionnaires invalid for summative evaluation.
- Summative use of student questionnaires harms students’ learning and instructors’ integrity and academic freedom.
- The proposed remedies for bias and other sources of inaccuracy (e.g., “halo”) will not be effective and bias will remain.
- Student questionnaires nevertheless may be useful for formative evaluation and other purposes.
- The widespread use of student questionnaires at other universities for summative evaluation gives no assurance of their appropriateness for that purpose. So-called “best practices” are ineffective.
- The alternatives to student questionnaires that have been proposed in the literature can be expected to carry less bias and to do more to promote effective instruction.
- Decisions about student questionnaire redesign and use should take full account of the best available internal (University of Waterloo) and external expert analysis and opinion. Thus far, this has not happened.