Tækifæri eða tálsýn? Kennslukannanir og annað mat á gæðum náms og kennslu

Translated title of the contribution: An opportunity or an illusion? : Student evaluations of teaching and other quality assessments in higher education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quality systems in universities all around the world aim to ensure that education and degrees are comparable with international standards and encourage a quality culture within higher education. The aim of this case study is to examine the views of administrators, teachers, and students at one university in Iceland, on quality assessment in education and teaching as well as quality improvements. Four individual interviews were taken with administrators as well as two focus groups with altogether nine teachers and four focus groups with altogether 15 students. The main finding of the study is that to obtain a comprehensive assessment of learning and teaching quality, it is important to collect various sources of assessment data and ensure the involvement of everyone in the learning community. Participants stated that in their view student evaluation of learning and teaching (SET) has a role in obtaining feedback from students as to how courses and study lines are working out and whether there are any problems that need to be tackled. The administrators found it useful to acquire an overview of how courses measure up to quality standards and be able to analyze what issues are important to respond to. However, it varied to what extent administrators worked on analyzing the findings, although they agreed on the benefit of implementing a more general and systematic process. Teachers described how SET, especially the open question answers, is valuable in order to receive feedback on their courses, enabling them to pick up tips on components that are going well, not working out or need to be modified. It was pointed out that SET also provides the opportunity of comparing assessment rates between schools within the university which can be valuable. According to the interviewees it is, however, important to further develop the questions in SET through the collaboration of everyone in the learning community. Students pointed out that the emphasis in the SET–questions does not always relate well enough to the subjects of the study and thus the questions are not useful in improving the quality of courses and study lines. Issues relating to the submission of the SET seem to discourage students from answering, such as the timing, a month before the end of the semester. Students revealed that because of how busy they are turning in assignments and preparing for tests at that time, they tend to skip answering SET. Teachers and administrators were also aware of how inconvenient the timing is and pointed out that an assessment done a month before the end of the semester only covers part of the coursework. As a low response rate decreases the validity of SET, all interviewees agreed on the importance of increasing student participation. They called for teachers’ encouragement but also involvement in leading discussions in class on midsemester findings and potential improvements to accommodate students’ recommendations and tips. Teachers also need to take part in using SET as an effective assessment tool, but findings indicated that some teachers avoid reviewing the findings because of bad experiences of offensive comments from students. This finding laid the foundation for another one which was the need for building and fostering trusting relationships in the learning community as this is the prerequisite for the utility of assessment findings. An active dialogue within the learning community was also stressed as an essential assessment tool. Such interchanges can occur within courses, in committees at the university and through different forums where learning and teaching are tackled. Administrators and teachers pointed out that it can be difficult to engage students in these assignments and students were aware of this but explained that most students work parallel to studying. All participants agreed on the critical importance of involving diverse representatives of the learning community in assessment processes as an essential key to developing and ensuring quality in higher education.
Translated title of the contributionAn opportunity or an illusion? : Student evaluations of teaching and other quality assessments in higher education
Original languageIcelandic
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2022

Other keywords

  • Quality assessment
  • Student evaluation of teaching (SET)
  • Higher education


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