A few weeks back the Times Higher published an article on student survey fatigue. Students fill in some many surveys including the National Student Survey, module surveys and institution wide surveys (coincidently, some the questions on the latter surveys are similar or identical to those on the NSS). I suggested on Twitter that the ineffectiveness of current surveys means that we want to do more surveys to fix the shortcomings of the existings surveys in order to give a ‘truer’ picture. Much of the reason that we are considering a national survey of language students stems from the shortcomings of the NSS outlined in our recent report. Should this new national survey go ahead I’m sure that it too will have its own shortcomings.
Legg and Wilson’s recent paper in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education on the reliability of www.ratemyprofessors.com vis-à-vis in course evaluations is interesting in its own right (their title "RateMyProfessors.com offers biased evaluations" deserves an award for clarity). But at least one thing could be said in defence of www.ratemyprofessors.com. It is unambiguous about who is the target of the evaluation—the teacher. With most other surveys it is unclear whether the students are being asked about the course, the teacher, the content, the university or the programme of study. The students don't know when they are answering the questions and we don't know when we are analyzing their answers.