Appearance, insults, allegations, blame and threats: an analysis of anonymous nonconstructive student evaluation of teaching in Australia

Richard Lakeman, Rosanne A. Coutts, Marie Hutchinson, Megan Lee, Deb Massey, Dima Nasrawi, Jann Fielden

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Abstract

Within higher education student evaluations of teaching (SET) are used to inform evaluations of performance of courses and teachers. An anonymous online survey was constructed and implemented using Qualtrics.
This study was situated within a more extensive study investigating the impact of narrative SET comments on teaching quality and the health and wellbeing of academic staff. This paper reports specifically on two open questions that were designed to elicit examples of non-constructive and offensive anonymous narrative feedback.
Five themes were identified:
allegations; insults; comments about appearance, attire and accent; projections and blame; and threats and punishment. These are represented in non-redacted form. Personally destructive, defamatory, abusive and hurtful comments were commonly reported. These kinds of comments may have adverse consequences for the well-being of teaching staff, could contribute to occupational stress and in some cases could be
considered libellous. The high prevalence of offensive comments accessible to and shared by teachers may be a reflection of the anonymity afforded to respondents using internet surveys, resulting in de-individuation and enabling some respondents to give voice to ‘hate speech’ which has no place in evaluations of teaching.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAssessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

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