The ASUA Report for Students shows how students responded to the core questions in each TCE report. Of course student schedules and program requirements often don't allow choice among courses, but when their are opportunities to consider student feedback, the ASUA report may be of interest.
The best way to understand the data in this report is a three-step process:
- First, look for as many instances of the course or instructor in the TCE database (http://tceonline.oia.arizona.edu/) as you can find. Average ratings over time are a lot more reliable than a single course results.
- Then, for each class of interest, did enough students respond? Since responding may not be random, generalizing from small samples is not recommended. Look at the "responded" versus "enrolled" numbers. The smaller the class, the more students are needed to have a representative sample. For example, half of a class of 100 is more likely to be usable information than half of a class of 30. If there are not enough responses, the results are simply the opinion of the students that completed TCEs and not appropriate for drawing conclusions about the instructor or the course.
- Finally, review the response frequencies as you would a poll, considering how many students said what. If nearly all the responses are in the top two categories for overall instructor and course items, most students have a positive outlook for the course and/or instructor.
Some other facts of interest:
- Research on ratings shows that large classes get lower ratings, as do classes in science, engineering, and more generally, courses with quantitative methods.
- Upper division and graduate courses get significantly higher ratings than do lower division classes.
- Difficulty ratings of a course do not in themselves signify quality. In fact, there are as many highly rated UA faculty whose courses are rated among the most difficult as there are highly rated faculty whose courses are rated easier. In other words, difficulty can signal a well-taught course with valuable intellectual challenge or diffculty associated with instructional problems. Ratings alone can't tell you which!