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University performance evaluations: what are we really measuring?

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Surveying students to garner feedback on teaching and subject quality is a common occurrence in many universities globally. Despite the criticisms surrounding whether measures associated with these surveys are indeed valid, university managers continue to utilise them in key decision making. These surveys mirror business practices where measuring customer satisfaction via surveys is common. However, some argue that universities are misdirected in measuring satisfaction as a proxy for teaching quality, possibly subverting the potentially conflicting objective of student learning. Even so, both student satisfaction and student learning can be relevant performance measures. Accordingly, we have developed two robust measures of these constructs. We argue that student learning can be measured and used to provide formative feedback for improving teaching effectiveness. Alternatively, student satisfaction can be appropriate for determining whether students are ‘enjoying’ their studies, and likewise offers distinct benefits to university managers measuring performance outcomes.
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Keywords: learning; satisfaction; student surveys; teaching evaluations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Marketing and International Studies Group,Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: 01 November 2012

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