Doing course evaluation as if learning matters most

Edstrom, K. (2008). Doing course evaluation as if learning matters most.  Higher Education Research & Development, 27(2), 95-106.

This paper discusses course evaluations and whether they serve as a tool for improving student learning. The position is taken that rather than rating the teachers, course evaluation should work as a tool for course development. The paper documents an exploratory study including interviews with staff and students on their views of course evaluation. Results of the study indicated that both lecturers and students had a teaching-focused view of course evaluations; that is, that quality learning was based on the transfer of content in lectures and affected by the performance of lecturers. Student views were not generally considered an effective way of promoting improvement, as they are not always aligned with quality learning and teaching practices. Alternatively, evaluation should identify the learning process including:

  • Time on task
  • Distribution of work over the duration of the course
  • Appropriateness of learning activity
  • Indications of approaches to learning
  • How students perceive the demands of the course
  • Students’ conceptions of learning (p. 102).

Edstrom concluded that aligned evaluations can prompt students to adopt a deep, rather than a surface, approach to their learning and can give lecturers useful information on how to design the course to bring about more appropriate learning activities.

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