Translating student evaluation of teaching: how discourse and cultural environments pressure rationalizing procedures

Pedro Pineda, Seidenschnur Tim

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Student evaluation of teaching (SET) has not yet been studied historically and comparatively. Based on our interviews with professors and administrators at 18 universities in three countries, we discuss how SET diffused in all the studied universities and how SET was translated and edited differently according to different sets of statements. SET diffused from the US, where it was initiated by students in the 1950s and later adopted by universities in the 1970s. German and Colombian universities only imported SET later, in the 2000s, and in the German public sector it is still not mandatory for all courses. SET gains legitimacy through different discourses, for instance, the discourse on the empowerment and rights of students. SET also connects to the discourse on increasing rationality that extends the metrification of teaching to universities and is often connected to discourses on competition. But SET has also been reformed because it is regarded as biased against underrepresented groups and faces criticism of its methodological validity. Discourses on rationalization, student empowerment and competition are used to gain legitimacy while academic discourses on academic freedom and social diversity discourses are used to oppose SET, make translation more difficult and lead to editing of SET practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1326-1342
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number7
Early online date16 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation through Research Scholarship to Pedro Pineda [grant number Az.].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Research into Higher Education.


  • Student evaluation of teaching
  • academic discourse
  • neo-institutionalism
  • organizational change
  • quality assurance
  • teaching evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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