Judging the Credibility of Quantitative Student Ratings of Instruction Research
Periodically, articles reporting research on student ratings of instruction (SRI), aka student evaluations of teaching, appear in the higher-education press. This literature often summarizes studies that challenge the validity and reliability of SRI. However, before drawing a conclusion about a quantitative study touted in the media, readers should evaluate both the credibility and generalizability of the primary source. In this paper, the authors review one set of criteria that aids in such evaluation—David Krathwohl’s (2009) judgments about (a) internal validity, or linking power; and (b) external validity, or generalizing power. Internal validity is the extent to which a study demonstrates that its investigated variables are linked in a relationship. External validity is how well a study establishes that its findings are generalizable. Applying such criteria can prevent biased takeaways created from merely reading a news article without assessing the quality of the research paper it summarizes.
Keywords: student ratings of instruction, external validity, Internal validity, student evaluations of teaching