Effects of Course and Instructor Characteristics on Student Evaluation of Teaching across a College of Engineering Academic Article uri icon


  • Background: Student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are a widely used metric to evaluate instructor effectiveness and are used to make promotion, tenure, and retention decisions for faculty. There is also growing interest by those outside the university community to use these metrics to evaluate faculty and broader academic performance. Purpose (Hypothesis): This study seeks to understand if and how course and instructor characteristics affect SETs and thereby to improve the usefulness of these metrics. This article aims to statistically examine the relationship between course and instructor characteristics and SETs. Design/Method: SETs from a large engineering college at a major public university were evaluated over a seven-semester period that covered 3938 courses taught by 549 unique engineering instructors. Course and instructor demographic data were statistically evaluated for their effects on SETs. Results: Course characteristics such as class size, course level, and whether a course was an elective or required had statistically significant effects on SETs. Instructor characteristics of gender and academic rank affected SETs and average course grades, respectively. Average course grades were positively correlated with SETs. Conclusions: Data analysis showed that course characteristics, faculty demographics, and average course grades had statistically significant effects on SETs; however, in some cases the effect sizes of these variables were small. Administrators and senior faculty members should be cognizant of these relevant factors and their effects when assigning faculty to certain courses and evaluating their teaching effectiveness using SETs. 2013 ASEE.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Engineering Education

author list (cited authors)

  • Johnson, M. D., Narayanan, A., & Sawaya, W. J.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Johnson, Michael D||Narayanan, Arunachalam||Sawaya, William J

publication date

  • April 2013