Some research suggests that student evaluations of teaching are influenced by students’ expected grades. And some professors report feeling pressure to make their courses easier as a result. A new study says that professors don’t have to worry about grades negatively impacting their student ratings as long as they use classroom practices students perceive to be fair. For their study, researchers surveyed a group of undergraduates’ perceptions of course fairness. They found that the relationship between grades and teaching ratings is attenuated when students believe their marks are determined by a fair process, and when professors seem consistent and responsive in their classroom practices in general.
“We’ve long known there’s an association between expected students’ course grades and how they evaluate teachers,” lead author Thomas Tripp, associate dean of business at Washington State University at Vancouver, said in a statement. “Faculty may not feel a need to award artificially high grades, if they knew how students’ perceptions of justice might influence this relationship.” Tripp and his co-authors found that students’ perception of fair classroom practices is based on four teaching practices: using rubrics and sticking to them; obtaining student feedback and acting on it; grading blindly to avoid bias; and adopting policies that allow for makeup work and absences. The full study, published in the Journal of Marketing Education, is available here.