Challenging the Validity of Higher Education Course Evaluations

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Kelly D. Bradley
James W. Bradley

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Abstract

In higher education, course evaluations are given much attention, with results directly impacting such events as merit review and tenure/promotion. The accurate presentation and proper use of the evaluation results is a critical issue. The typical course evaluation process involves distributing a Likert-type survey to a class, compiling the data and reporting means/standard deviations (classical test theory approach, CTT). One alternative analytical technique is the Rasch model. A theoretical review of each model and an empirical example utilizing end of semester course evaluations from an introductory statistics course taught at a Midwest community college is presented to demonstrate the step-by-step process of feedback via each model. A contention is made that the CTT summary is not producing a valid picture of the evaluation data. The survey research community and institutions analyzing similar rating scale data will benefit from the results of this study as it provides a sound methodology for analyzing such data. The education community will also benefit by receiving better-informed results.

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