Regular provision of feedback to employees is common practice in many organizations. Feedback often serves as a means to provide recognition to good performers as well as to help employees learn about how to improve one’s performance.
Providing employees with feedback has also become increasingly prevalent in education. Many schools use students’ evaluations of teachers to enable and motivate teachers to improve teaching. Moreover, students’ evaluations sometimes play a role in tenure, bonus, and promotion decisions.
Field experiment at a Dutch school
The authors ran a field experiment at a large Dutch school for intermediate vocational education to examine whether the response of teachers to student feedback depends on the content of the feedback.
Students evaluated all teachers, but only a randomly selected group of teachers received feedback. Additionally, all teachers were asked before and a year after the experiment to assess their own performance on the same items.
Only female teachers respond to feedback
The analysis shows that receiving student feedback had, on average, no effect on student evaluation scores a year later. However, teachers whose self-assessment before the experiment is much more positive than their students’ evaluations do improve significantly in response to receiving feedback.
The authors also find that provision of feedback reduces the gap between teachers’ self-assessment and students’ assessment, but only to a limited extent. All of these results are driven by the female teachers in the sample, whereas male teachers appear to be unresponsive to student feedback.