Toronto, Feb. 06, 2019 - A new report published by a working group
of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations exposes substantial
issues with student questionnaires on courses and teaching (SQCTs), including endemic
bias and systemic discrimination. These end-of-term student questionnaires are common
practice at universities across Canada.
The report finds that student questionnaire scores fail to accurately reflect teaching
quality and that their results are not suitable for determining faculty pay, promotion,
tenure, or contract renewal. Student questionnaire results are skewed by many factors
outside an instructor's control, including class size, time, subject, and the professor's
race, gender, or accent. Additionally, the report finds that current SQCT practices
facilitate the harassment of faculty, compromise educational quality, and are not
an appropriate metric for determining university funding levels.
"Faculty understand that student feedback is vital for improving teaching and course
development," said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. "But, as this report clearly
demonstrates, using student questionnaires to evaluate faculty performance is counterproductive
and harmful, and it raises serious equity questions. The goal of student questionnaires
should be to inform a better understanding of the teaching and learning experience,
not to penalize faculty for their class size, instructional innovations, gender,
or skin colour."
The report is one of the most exhaustive of its kind in Canada and examines the
methodological, research ethics, and human rights implications of student questionnaires.
It finds that:
- Women, racialized, and LGBTQ2S+ faculty, as well as faculty with disabilities, receive
lower scores than their white male colleagues. Using SQCTs to determine pay and
promotion risks marginalizing these equity seeking groups even further, impacting
their career prospects and limiting academic diversity.
- It is impossible to adjust SQCT scores to account for their bias.
- Anonymous SQCT comments are regularly used to target faculty members with abusive,
harassing, and harmful comments.
- Students are not adequately informed about how SQCTs are used, or how their information
can be shared.
- Using SQCT scores to evaluate teaching discourages innovation and undermines student
"Given the serious problems with student questionnaires detailed in this report,
it is evident that universities must stop using these questionnaires to make decisions
about promotion, tenure, or the reappointment of contract faculty," said Phillips.
"Instead, our universities should invest in more effective and accurate, qualitative
methods for evaluating teaching, particularly peer evaluation. The government should
abandon any idea of using these flawed metrics to determine university funding levels
– research has clearly shown that SQCT metrics not only don't work, they perpetuate
The report proposes several recommendations for refocusing student questionnaires
so they can be used to improve student learning and education quality. First and
foremost, the report recommends limiting the use of student questionnaires to formative
purposes to provide instructors with student feedback on how to improve their teaching
and course development. The report also recommends using peer evaluation, where
trained faculty members audit classes and evaluate instructors.
Putting these principles into practice will require resources and the willingness
of both the provincial government and university administrations to support faculty
and students and invest in the effective evaluation of teaching as a vital component
of the academic mission.
OCUFA thanks the members of the working group for their hard work in putting together
this comprehensive report. The full report can be downloaded here: https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/OCUFA-SQCT-Report.pdf
Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty
associations across Ontario.