Student perceptions of learning and their relationship to student ratings of college teaching effectiveness

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education


John Centra


Learning, Teaching effectiveness

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research


Student ratings of teaching effectiveness are currently the primary source of information regarding the accomplishment of course objectives and students' attainment of knowledge. The primary criterion used for assessing teaching effectiveness is student learning, commonly measured by a semester exam. The literature reviews of Cohen (1981) and Feldman (1989), however, support the use of students' perceptions of learning, rather than actual learning, as a validity criterion in the evaluation of teaching effectiveness.

The purpose of this study was to further explore the relationship between student ratings of college teaching effectiveness and student self-reports of perceptions of learning. The Student Instructional Report II (SIR II) was used to obtain data from 6,136 classes. Multiple regression was employed to analyze the data collectively, by institutional type, by predominant pedagogy, and by academic discipline.

The 16 proposed regression models accounted for approximately 80% of the variance in students' ratings of perceptions of learning, and did not vary considerably in their prediction variables. Of the 22 independent variables available for entry into the regression equations, only six were statistically significant. Of these, the Overall Evaluation Item (Question 40) and Student Effort and Involvement (Scale G) entered all the models as the first and second predicators, respectively. In 11 of the 16 models, Assignments, Exams, and Grading (Scale D) entered as the third predictor variable. Communication (Scale B), Junior-Senior student level , and a class size of less than 15 students were pedagogy and discipline specific. Interestingly, the variables that influenced the determination of students' perceptions of learning did not appear to vary considerably by institutional type (2-year and 4-year institutions), predominant pedagogy (lecture, lecture and discussion, discussion, lecture and laboratory, and laboratory), or academic discipline (Health, Business, Education, Social Studies, Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, Technology, and Humanities).

The implications of this study are threefold. These include: validation of students' perceptions of learning as a reflection of teaching effectiveness, instrumentation design issues, and the role of various constituents within the higher education arena in enhancing the educational process.


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