The relationship between student perceptions of teachers and classrooms, teacher goal orientation toward teaching, and student ratings of teacher effectiveness



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The concept of teaching effectiveness is challenging for researchers to define. Hypothesized as a multidimensional construct, it encompasses content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, personality characteristics of the teacher, and classroom dynamics. No single dimension, trait, or behavior, however, fully captures what it means to be an effective teacher. Measures, such as peer observation, self-report surveys, and student evaluations, assess teacher effectiveness in higher education. Student evaluations of teachers (SETs) assess multiple areas, including: course content, objectives, organization, and the nature, difficulty, and value of a course; teacher preparation, enthusiasm, and subject knowledge; teacher goals for structuring classroom activities and engaging students in academic pursuits (Cashin, 1995; Feldman, 1996; Marsh, 1984; Midgley, 1998). SETs can be seen as expressions of students’ perceptions about an instructor, a course, and a class, but what influences those perceptions? One concept, classroom community, hypothesizes that students’ sense of community is influenced by the quality of interaction with their instructors, fellow students, and course content. Investigations of classroom community associate higher sense of community with more positive academic outcomes. Teachers’ goals for structuring class activities and engaging students is another concept hypothesized to influence students’ perceptions. Teachers’ goal orientation towards their own teaching is also a factor that appears to influence academic outcomes. Using goal orientation theory, Kucsera, Roberts, Walls, Walker & Svinicki (2009) identified three orientations that influence how teachers approach teaching. To date little research has explored how teacher goal orientation might influence students’ perceptions. This study examined whether there is a relationship between teachers’ goal orientation towards their teaching, students’ perceptions of teacher goals for classroom structure and student engagement, sense of community, and student ratings of teacher effectiveness. Undergraduate business communications faculty completed a survey about their goals for their own teaching while their students took a survey about their sense of community in the classroom, their perceptions of their teachers’ goals for engaging them in academic work and an end-of-semester course instructor survey. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to analyze the data. Results generally indicated that students’ perceptions are associated with SETs outcomes while teachers’ goal orientations are not.