Existing research has highlighted the inherent biases in students’ evaluations of teaching. These biases tend to work against women and minorities, inadvertently reward lax teaching practices, and sometimes conflate unrelated factors like likeability, humor, or physical appearance with actual teaching ability.
Despite their flaws, it’s important to acknowledge that student evaluations serve a purpose in gathering feedback on teaching methods and classroom experiences. They also provide a platform for students to voice their opinions on matters that directly impact their education.
Applying Anchoring Principles for Improvement
To address the issues related to bias and subjectivity in teaching evaluations, there’s a need to take a page from the book of experts like Daniel Kahneman, who designed evaluations for the Israeli military. By anchoring these evaluations to objective factors, we can create a more robust and equitable system.
One practical approach is to include objective questions about instructor performance in teaching evaluations. These questions could encompass whether the instructor effectively communicated course content and assignments as outlined in the syllabus, whether they adhered to the scheduled topics, and how promptly assignments were graded.
Testing and Validating the Theory
While the concept of anchoring evaluations to objective factors appears promising, its effectiveness needs empirical validation. Controlled experiments, conducted by researchers, can help determine whether this approach genuinely reduces bias and enhances the overall utility of teaching evaluations. Validation through empirical research would be essential to ensure the effectiveness of this proposed improvement.