Playing the SET game: how teachers view the impact of student evaluation on the experience of teaching and learning

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Student evaluation of teaching (SET) has become a ubiquitous feature of higher education. The attainment and maintenance of positive SET is essential for most teaching staff to obtain and maintain tenure. It is not uncommon for teachers to receive offensive and non-constructive commentary unrelated to teaching quality. Regular exposure to SET contributes to stress and adversely impacts mental health and well-being. We surveyed Australian teaching academics in 2021, and in this paper, we explore the perceived impacts of SET on the teaching and learning experience, academic standards and quality. Many respondents perceived that SET contributes to an erosion of standards and inflation of grades. A thematic analysis of open-ended questions revealed potential mechanisms for these impacts. These include enabling a culture of incivility, elevating stress and anxiety in teaching staff, and pressure to change approaches to teaching and assessment to achieve the highest scores. Playing the SET game involves balancing a commitment to quality and standards with concessions to ensure optimal student satisfaction. Anonymous SET is overvalued, erodes standards and contributes to incivility. The process of SET needs urgent reform.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAssessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Sep 2022

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