An investigation of social and other factors which influence evaluations of educational courses
This thesis examines factors, which influence responses on “paper and pencil” evaluations, commonly used with training programmes. A series of ten studies investigated evaluations of a wide range of courses, some taught by the researcher. It was emphasised, evaluations should take into account the educational variables of type of training, type of student and course content. Open ended evaluations were found to be influenced by a desire to react in a socially desirable manner. This interpretation was supported by student's responses on a questionnaire. The value of open ended evaluations as a probing mechanism was emphasised. Activity measure evaluations were found to relate more closely to the effort involved in the task than the to merits of a particular aspect of a course. Likert style structured rating scales were subject to a ‘halo effect'. Students also tended to answer using the favourable end of scales regardless of their real feelings. Combining two evaluation techniques was found to have a dramatic effect on response rate on open ended evaluations and thus validity. In addition response patterns produced conflicting findings between open ended and Likert style scales.. It is suggested the way people complete evaluation forms is partly a reflection of the impact of a range of influences, not formerly linked by research methods texts to evaluation form. It was stressed the educational aims of any evaluation should be established before methods of evaluation are decided.