Faculty evaluation is an imperative discipline of Educational Management and can be used for both formative and summative purposes i.e. either to improve instruction or for salary, promotion or tenure decisions respectively (Rifkin, 1995). Moreover, it is for improving the teacher's performance by giving him/her good feedback. The study revolves around the evaluation of faculty in private universities of Pakistan and the main focus is on the evaluation by students.
The area of concern is the subjectivity involved in evaluating faculty or the biases that prevail during this process. The research concentrates on the in depth study of the sources of these biases namely CGPA, student's interest in the course, academic level and maturity, peer pressure and so on. In addition, theory suggests that these biases can be based on Halo Effect or Recency Effect (Dickey & Pearson, 2005). According to Dr. Herbert Marsh (1993) student evaluations are multi-dimensional as there is no single standard for measuring teaching effectiveness. When there is no set standard to measure then biases come into play.
Since, the early 1970s students' involvement in faculty evaluations has greatly increased. The instrument used for this purpose is 'Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET)' which is a form filled out by students to evaluate their teachers. In USA more than 90% universities use it and some also use it as the sole criteria for evaluation (Miller). In Pakistan it started back in the beginning of year 2002 (Dr. Hayat). So this way of evaluation has gained importance recently.
Students are the strength of an institution and the ultimate consumers of the service a university provides. Therefore, their feedback and views are very important. Even some universities today have online evaluation forms and it is compulsory for students to fill them out otherwise they have to pay a fine. Basically, the whole process is done to satisfy the students; develop the system and improve teaching effectiveness. The biases hinder the progress of the evaluation process.
Concisely, it is essential to study these biases and develop methods to combat them. Educational institutions waste a lot of time and money on these evaluations but never get the true picture nor try to utilize it in improving teaching methods.
In a research conducted at the University of Dacca, it was found that 67% of the respondents are of the view that teacher's are responsible for student's failure in exams, merely 25 % of respondents believe that teachers perform their duties seriously, 74% deem that the classroom discipline is not properly maintained (Jilani, 1968). So various other factors are leading to inferior educational quality and thus more accountability is needed. Since, students are present in classes and are the direct judges of the education they receive so their voice is important in evaluation. And this process has to be free from biases in order for the educational system to flourish because the quality of any institution is derived from the quality of its students and teachers. Thus, looking at these biases which is the crux of the problem is significant and worthy of research.
The core research is restricted to the private universities of Lahore. Various student evaluation forms for teachers are reviewed to judge the pattern of ratings and to reach a conclusion. Moreover, a specific designed questionnaire was distributed to the students of various private universities of Lahore like LUMS, BNU, LSE, PCBA and the University of Lahore to identify the sources of bias. A review of the theory and other research work pertaining to this topic has been completed.
All the stated procedures were adopted to make the education system better thus meeting the needs of today's world; making students and faculty members satisfied; trying to get the accurate picture of the evaluation and refining teaching methods and procedures. The research is of great help to educational institutes as they will get ideas for betterment and also how the students feel; for students as they would take the activity more seriously for their own benefit and for other researchers interested in the topic.
1.2 Background of the topic
1.2.1 Origin of SETs: The idea of student evaluation of teaching (SET) was first introduced by a psychologist E.T. Guthrie at the University of Washington in the 1920s (Murray, 2005).
1.2.2 Evolution of SETs: Its earliest uses are traced back to North American universities. It became a widely used instrument in the end of 1960s and beginning of 1970s. Initially many instructors were against it and questioned its validity. But on the whole students wanted a say as they raised concerns about more accountability; administrators who were being questioned for poor quality wanted to try another technique and to some extent some faculty members who wanted their promotion, salary decisions to be based on something else too supported it (Rita, 1980; Miller). In Pakistan, the use of SETs and some other instruments started at the beginning of year 2002 (Dr. Hayat, 2008).
In addition to SETs certain other techniques used for teacher evaluation are evaluation by colleagues, evaluation by administrators and so on. In accordance with Deans 'teaching' is the best way to evaluate the professor but deans are hardly present in classrooms to observe that. Therefore, it is generally accepted that students are in the best position to judge their teachers as they spend most of the time with them (Rita, 1980).
1.2.3 Formats of Faculty Evaluation: Rita (1980) has outlined certain formats of evaluation in her book. One is the "Instructor Evaluation Form" that rates instructors on preparation, presentation, evaluation, personality and intellect; another instrument called F.A.C.E (Faculty and Course Evaluation) examines the professor on this traits, text & readings, examinations, papers, laboratories etc. On the other hand, there is a 'Classroom Visitation Appraisal' that is used by coordinators to observe the teachers skills inside the classroom. Moreover, SEEQ (Student Evaluation of Educational Quality) is a five point scale questionnaire developed by Dr. Herbert Marsh which is also widely used in many institutions. Normally the use of SETs based on a 5-point Likert scale is prevalent.
1.2.4 Validity of SETs: The reliability and validity of SETs has been questioned at great lengths due to the presence of certain biases that are non-instructional factors and influence the ratings that students give to their teachers. Researchers' debate that SETs should not be used as a sole measure as the accuracy of results is distorted due to the presence of these biases (Bedggood & Pollard, 1999). On the other hand, some consider SET to be very important and suggest that it should be done regularly (Ahmadi, Helms & Ralszadeh, 2001). In total SETs has gained popularity since the 1970s despite criticism but majority of the universities use it as one factor of the evaluation process. Other techniques are also used (Rita, 1980).
According to Murray the use of SETs has been good and has improved teaching but still there is a belief that teachers do not take the feedback seriously as they do not trust the results of SETs.
1.3 Importance of the study with respect to the world
The world is changing and one has to constantly adapt to new methods in order to prosper. Universities have been facing a constant dilemma regarding their inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Thus, in educational institutes the greatest asset is the faculty who teach and objective evaluation of faculty is needed to combat the problem (Rita, 1980).
1.3.1 Role of Students: As mentioned earlier, students have become more involved in these decision making processes at universities for example teacher evaluation, organizing special events or programs on behalf of the university etc. Moreover, students and their parents do not want to spend money on expensive education unless and until they see the benefit and that is getting quality education from teachers (Rita, 1980). Thus, more accountability is needed and just for this purpose and also to learn about students opinions, student evaluation of their teachers have become a widely practiced phenomenon in today's world.
1.3.2 Biases in SETs: As discussed earlier, the SET instrument is a victim of certain biases that try to hinder the true picture i.e. when students rate their faculty they base their decisions on certain characteristics that are not related to learning or the teacher and hence do not give the true picture. So the problem is that all these universities and even Pakistani universities use SETs but have neither tried to look at these biases nor tried to make the rating process more objective. Many universities like PCBA have an online rating form that students definitely have to fill towards the end of the term otherwise they are fined. But what's the outcome? Universities are wasting a lot of money and time in printing, distributing and then trying to sort out these forms but what's the benefit if they do not give accurate results.
1.3.3 Potential Remedy: Every university has a proper format of the form that is filled in by students regarding the teaching capabilities of their instructors and the satisfaction that students get. As indicated by Tamara Baldwin and Nancy Blattner the use of SEI (Student evaluation of instruction) has to be examined properly in order to understand the characteristics that affect results. The whole process is done to satisfy students; develop the system and improve teaching effectiveness. The biases hinder the progress of the whole evaluation procedure.
Concisely, it is essential to study these biases and develop methods to combat them. "Step up the stairs or stare at the steps" - a quote by Ralph Nichols is a good indication of the problem. Universities should attempt to identify the biases; remove them by training students or pursuing non-normative evaluation; clearly state the purpose of the whole exercise by assuring students that their opinions matter; maintain anonymity and confidentiality of evaluations and also state the benefits that students will have from it.
1.4 Importance of the study with respect to Pakistan
As discussed earlier, the Pakistan's educational system has always been criticized for the low quality educational management and there is a need for more accountability.
1.4.1 Failure in Exams & Low Quality Education: From 1947-2003 Pakistan had no university that could be ranked world class (Hamid, 2010). Moreover, the high- percentage of failures in exams points towards three things either inefficient teacher, wrong teaching method or the student himself. In a survey it was found that 87% of respondents believe that teachers show lack of interest in their duties, 67% are of the view that they are responsible for students failures and so on (Jilani, 1968). Educational institutes can only control the first two factors i.e. teachers or teaching method.
1.4.2 Benefit of Research: This research will give an insight into what students feel and the obstacles they face in stating the true situation. The in depth study of biases can help educational institutes see that what lacks behind and how can they make it better; it will help then in using the SET results with caution; even faculty members can benefit by knowing the students view and taking precautions to avoid negative things if any. Moreover, administrators can train the students in how to avoid these biases by assuring them that it's for their own well-being. Since, eventually it's the students who will benefit from the good quality education that efficient teachers deliver and they will be contented that their money has paid them off well. This will improve the whole system and even raise the faculty morale as competent & deserving faculty would be identified and promoted. Furthermore, the research will benefit future researchers who are interested or any researcher who wants to find a suitable remedy to the problem i.e. to make the rating more objective.
1.5 Research Question
"An Analysis of the sources of potential bias in faculty evaluations (by students) in the Private Universities of Lahore: CGPA, Weightage given to SETs, Perception of Instructor, Academic level & Maturity and Class Size"
The main focus of the research is on the five sources of bias i.e. CGPA, weightage given to SETs, Perception of the instructor, the academic level and maturity of students, and the class size. An analysis of these sources has been made through a survey questionnaire distributed at the five private universities of Lahore. The use of Student Evaluation of Teaching (SETs) has increased and the process is carried out manually as well as online depending on different universities. It is essential to find out and combat any biases that hide the true picture. It needs to be encouraged as it is a very effective tool of evaluation of faculty but it should also be coupled with other tools of evaluation. Moreover, it is crucial to make the rating system more effective.