Exploring critical conceptions of student-led evaluation in Australian higher education

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

The student evaluation of teaching and courses is ubiquitous and an increasingly influential element of the Australian higher education landscape. It is significant in the assessment of the value of academic work and often central in promotional processes and privileged in institutional funding arrangements. Yet the assumptions of the student evaluation model remain subject to limited critical enquiry compared to other dimensions of practice in Australian higher education. This paper explores the potential reasons for this, as well as the range of research around student evaluation that has been undertaken, which is largely confined to statistical and functionalist explorations of student-based evaluative practice. It suggests that evaluation of pedagogical practices needs to be considered as a complex social activity. The paper also argues that there is a need to challenge the range of significant mythologies that underpin student evaluation models that are based on reductive quantitative understandings of practice. It argues that such mythologies need to be recognised and subject to further critical exploration in scholarly research that matches other areas of higher education practice. Finally, it also proposes a potential frame for ‘second generation’ practitioner-based evaluation as an alternative to orthodox student-based models.

Keywords: student evaluation, learning quality, pedagogical practices