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Indiana University Bloomington

Instructional Consulting

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Interpretation of Student Evaluations of Teaching

For many instructors, the data from student evaluations of teaching (SETs) can evoke powerful feelings that range from curiosity to anxiety to outright dread. Indeed, as credentialed experts, faculty are relatively unaccustomed to being judged on their performance in the classroom even by peers or administrative bodies. Hence the discomfort at being evaluated by the typically young and inexperienced students whom they are commissioned to teach.

Nevertheless, experts agree that SETs can offer instructors reliable, valid, and relatively unbiased information about their effectiveness as teachers, provided that students are asked questions they are qualified to answer. Because they are novices, students do not have the authority, for instance, to comment on faculty knowledge or whether lessons incorporate the most current scholarship in the field. However, students are the best judges of whether the course was organized and executed in a manner that optimized their learning.

Because the information from SETs can be so personal, it is often difficult, if not impossible, for instructors to interpret the data - especially the qualitative data - alone. Comments can often be shrouded in inexpressive or unprofessional language; numerical data can be extremely confusing. This is where we come in. After studying the data carefully, our staff will sit down with you in consultation in a comfortable, private setting. We will help you recognize what your students identify as your teaching strengths and also help you see aspects of your teaching that students believe could be improved. If you desire, we will also collaborate with you to address some of the changes you would like to make in response to the information offered by your students.

Faculty who seek our help with their SETs can expect full privacy and strict confidentiality; we are the "safe place" to discuss your evaluations, even when they are difficult or perhaps distressing. Under no circumstances will any information about your work with us be reported to administrative bodies of any kind. We assume a professional consultant-client privilege so that unless you chose to divulge that you have consulted with us, no one - including peers, chairs, deans, and directors - would ever know that you had worked with us.

For help interpreting your SETs, contact us directly via telephone or e-mail to set up an appointment.