Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, Ed.D.; Christopher B. Newman, Ph.D.; Paula S. Krist, Ph.D.; Iris H. W. Engstrand, Ph.D.; Pat Burk, Ph.D.; Patricia Heydet-Kirsch, Ed.D.


Course Characteristics, Faculty Characteristics, Student Evaluations


Student evaluations of college instructors are anything but a new phenomenon, having been used since the early 1900s. Today, universities around the world continue to use student evaluations as a means for measuring instructor effectiveness. Despite concerns of student objectivity, at many institutions these evaluations have a sizable influence on decisions involving faculty promotion, tenure, and merit salary increases. While there is much literature examining student evaluations, few studies have provided a longitudinal, multi-discipline exploration of the impact course and faculty characteristics have on student evaluations.

To address this gap in the literature, this study used publically available data collected over two consecutive academic years from a single college located within a university in the southeastern United States to examine the extent to which course and faculty characteristics explained variation in undergraduate student evaluations. Mean and median scores associated with quality of instruction, amount of student learning, and relative performance of the professor were used as dependent variables in the analysis of 1,812 separate classes. Findings revealed that select course and faculty characteristics explained a significant amount of the variation in student evaluations. For example upper division courses tended to receive better ratings than lower division courses; early morning courses received lower ratings than any other time; general education courses tended to be scored lower than non-general education course; and more often than not, female professors received lower ratings than their male counterparts. Scores also varied significantly by department as did the patterns of significance among the more than 40 independent variables used in the analysis. Interestingly, political science and history had the highest scores and anthropology and philosophy the lowest. Taken together, these models explained between 1% and 45% of the variation in evaluation scores among the 11 departments used in the analysis.

Given the important role that student evaluations play in the decision-making process underlying faculty promotion, tenure, and merit salary increases, the findings in this study will help both faculty and administrators better understand the course and instructor characteristics that may be impacting student evaluations, in effect creating a more equitable and efficient process for reviewing faculty.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies