Students’ Perceptions of Learning, Course Grades, and Students’ Evaluations of Teaching: An Empirical Analysis

By Wim Christiaens, Pieter Spooren, Dimitri Mortelmans and Francis J. A. Van Loon.

Published by The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 19, 2014 $US5.00

Student evaluation of teaching (SET) is widely used as a measure of teaching performance in higher education. However, one of the major concerns surrounding SET involves the validity and reliability of student opinions (Onwuegbuzie et al. 2009). The most common method of assessing the convergent validity of SET scores is to examine their relationship to student achievement (objective measure) or student perceptions of learning (subjective measure), which are considered proxies for actual learning. Previous research has identified positive associations between both proxies and SET, though never in a single study. In order to obtain a more precise understanding of the relationship between student learning and SET, the present study combines both objective and subjective measures of student learning and explores their relationship to SET scores. Multilevel regression modelling (involving several other student, teacher and course characteristics) of data from the University of Antwerp (1080 evaluations from 17 courses in the 2011-2012 academic year) reveals that both measures have significant positive effects on SET scores but the subjective measure was more influential. This result vouches for the trustworthiness of student opinions. Students who feel they have learned a lot, also tend to give more positive evaluations.

Keywords: Student Evaluation of Teaching, Student Achievement, Student Perception of Learning, Convergent Validity, Course Grades

International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, Volume 20, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.13-21. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 19, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 614.585KB)).

Wim Christiaens

Educational Advisor, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Wim Christiaens (°1985) holds a master’s degree in educational sciences and works as an Educational Advisor and Researcher at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences from the University of Antwerp (Belgium). His research topics include the evaluation of teaching by students in higher education, and the success rate of first year university students.

Dr. Pieter Spooren

Educational Advisor/Researcher, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Pieter Spooren (°1978) holds master’s degrees in educational sciences and quantitative analysis in the social sciences, and a PhD in social sciences. He is affiliated as an Educational Advisor and a Researcher at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences from the University of Antwerp (Belgium). His research topics include the use and validity of student evaluation of teaching in higher education, and the transition from secondary education to higher education.

Prof. Dimitri Mortelmans

Professor, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Dimitri Mortelmans is professor in sociology at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Antwerp (Belgium). He teaches qualitative research methods, multivariate statistics and advanced study of populations, families and the life course. He is head of the Research Centre for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (CELLO). His main research topics cover divorce, work-life balance and leisure time of youngsters.

Prof. Francis J. A. Van Loon

Professor, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Francis J. A. baron Van Loon (°1949) holds a PhD in social sciences (University of Ghent, Belgium, 1976). From 1987-1990 he was Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences from the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and from 2000-2008 Rector of the same university. In the course of this mandate he was among other things, president of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Flanders), the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) and the Antwerp Business Center. For the moment he is Honorary Rector and Full Professor at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Antwerp and at the Management School of the same university.