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Validity of student feedback in institutes of higher education

student feedback, quality evaluation, teaching

These are the times of treating students as customers. Most Universities have introduced the practice of taking feedback from students on their professors. This article discusses validity and significance of this type of feedback.

While asking students for their feedback, any University will assume that it will be an honest feedback without any bias. However as we all know, any feedback is susceptible to some degree of bias, and deviation from being fully honest. It is a common observation of academicians that student feedback is more likely to reflect a teacher’s relations (smooth or otherwise) with students rather than his/her academic competence. A person who is poor at teaching, if can manage to be popular among students by means of loose evaluation during exams (i.e., being extra-liberal in marking the answer-books), he has good chances of being labeled as a ‘good’ teacher in feedback forms. On the other hand, another person who is really good at teaching, prepares hard before his lectures, but practices quality evaluation during exams and exerts minimum tolerance towards indiscipline among students, he is certainly going to receive a poor rating in feedback forms.

Additional point to be considered is the competence of the students to judge their professors. Are we sure that candidates who are still to enter the profession, who are just novice learners, will be able to give a reliable feedback? Moreover, as it is commonly known, different people enter the University for different purposes, i.e. all of them do not necessarily come there to study. Why such people should be considered even worthy of being asked of their feedback?

If Universities start taking these feedbacks too seriously, it is likely to create pressure on teachers for maintaining smooth relations with their students, which may compel them to compromise on discipline and quality checking during examinations. Some may argue that a teacher can get good rating in feedback if he really teaches well. But as pointed above quality of teaching is just one of the several factors which affect feedback, and not the sole one.

Though this article does not favor rude behavior by a teacher in name of discipline, it does emphasize the need of relieving teachers from the pressure of getting good rating in feedbacks, because such pressure is surely likely to make professors to try for gaining cheap popularity among their students. And if that happens, it will only lower dignity of academia.
Published: 2009-12-09
Author: vijay kothari

About the author or the publisher
I am a microbiologist, acting as an Assistant Professor in Science with Nirma University. My current research is focused on natural products.

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