The Regents, administrations and faculties of the University of Wisconsin System have in common the purpose of providing the most effective instruction possible for all students. They also share the interest that students have in improvement of teaching quality, and assert that teaching ability should be one of the chief criteria considered in tenure decisions and in the retention, promotion, and compensation of faculty.

Student evaluation of teaching is an important source of information on classroom performance. For this reason, the Regents seek to establish University of Wisconsin System policy on the use of student evaluation of teaching for (a) improvement of instruction; (b) retention, promotion, and tenure decisions; and (c) merit salary increase deliberations. The statement herein is limited to formal student evaluation of instruction only and does not cover evaluation of non-instructional personnel or activities, or evaluation of instruction by faculty peers or administrators. As background for such a System policy, the Regents offer the following commentary:

General Observations:

Student evaluation for such purposes as those stated above is now conducted in a variety of ways throughout the University of Wisconsin System . The Regents recognize that the faculties of the several institutions have the primary responsibility for setting policy concerning the method or methods by which student evaluation of instruction may be undertaken. Currently in the System some campuses have in operation a uniform institution-wide method of student evaluation, others permit departmental/divisional autonomy, and others use systems devised and/or administered by student groups. Institutional faculty governance bodies are encouraged to work toward an evaluative methodology, including delineation of faculty/student involvement in development of evaluation instrument(s) and procedures for its (their) use, particularly suited to the needs and nature of their institutions.

While research on the use of student evaluation has been extensive, no single instrument or methodology can be identified that is clearly more valid or useful than another. Emphasis may to good effect be placed on description of what happens in the classroom; research is still clearly needed to improve evaluation methodologies. Consequently, whatever practice is followed will need to be improved by an on-going process of testing and perfecting, and a wise understanding of the strengths and limitations of the student evaluation methodology in use. The Regents accordingly believe that variety of practice, affirmed by the considered judgment of the faculties of the several institutions, constitutes the best basis for carrying out a Regent policy on student evaluation.

Use of Student Evaluation for Improvement of Instruction:

One of the widest uses of student evaluation is as a source of information for the improvement of instruction. The Regents recognize that a variety of instruments or methods of student evaluation may serve the purpose of improving instruction, yet at the same time have little value for purposes of comparative evaluation of teaching performance. For example, short questionnaires checking student reaction to particular teaching materials, units, forms of presentation, or exams; open-ended suggestions solicited from class members for course improvements; or class discussion as part of the on-going process of course planning and conduct may be useful for instructional improvement but not of value for peer group advice or administrative uses. Frequently, student evaluation for self-improvement is best used when the faculty member has freedom of choice as to instrument, methods, or frequency. In this context, information that a faculty member solicits from students may be of greatest value for teaching improvement when there is no requirement that it be submitted to support promotion, tenure, or merit increase decisions.

Use of Student Evaluations for Retention. Promotion. and Tenure Decisions:

Peer group evaluation of a faculty member for retention, promotion, or tenure is necessarily based on multiple criteria that include effectiveness in teaching as well as high quality in scholarly activity and public service. Final consensus prior to a recommendation requires a judicious weighing of such criteria, both singly and in relation to one another, relative to the current mission and developmental needs of a department and institution. In assessing teaching effectiveness, the Regents believe that student evaluations are an important and useful source of evidence that should be explicitly considered in reaching judgments. The Regents assert, however, that student evaluation must not be a substitute for direct peer judgment of teaching effectiveness through a variety of means such as observation of teaching, assessment of syllabi, examinations and other course materials, and evaluation of contributions to development and strengthening of departmental curriculum. Moreover, effective peer judgment of teaching effectiveness necessarily includes both examination of the faculty member’s current level of performance, and also his or her potential for growth.

Use of Student Evaluations in Merit Salary Increase Decisions:

With regard to merit salary increase, the Regents are aware that sharp differences of opinion exist within the System, and within higher education nationally, concerning the value of repeated and regular use of a single evaluative instrument as one of the bases for annual decisions. While some campuses regularly use student evaluations for the purpose of improving teaching, other campuses believe that requiring annual or semester use for all classes of all teachers (since all teachers might properly be considered for merit increases) may generate costs well beyond any benefits received. The system may be time consuming and costly to manage. It may generate a volume of data much of which is redundant in the sense that steady and repetitious use may not generate new information. Such concerns should be reflected in a policy statement on student evaluation.

Policy Statement:

In light of these considerations and in an effort to insure considered use of student evaluation for certain administrative purposes and to encourage its increased use for other purposes, the Regents have prepared the following statement of System policy:

In an effort to insure considered use of student evaluation for certain administrative purposes and to encourage its increased use for other purposes, the Regents adopt the following statement of policy.

  1. Student evaluation for the improvement of instruction. Each University of Wisconsin Institution should develop policy supporting the widest possible use of student evaluation for the improvement of instruction, together with supporting services that will best encourage and assist faculty members to use student evaluation for this purpose.
  2. Student evaluation of instruction as information used in actions on promotion, retention, or the awarding of tenure. Each University of Wisconsin System Institution shall adopt such policies for instructional faculty as will insure: (a) that student evaluation of the instruction of each faculty member being considered for promotion or tenure shall be undertaken; (b) that the faculty body which initiates recommendations for promotion or tenure shall consider, in addition to independent peer judgment of teaching effectiveness, student evaluation data, taking into account existing limitations in validity and reliability of the evaluation methodology employed; and (c) that the faculty body initiating the recommendation shall include both its explicit evaluation of the teaching effectiveness of the person for whom the recommendation is made, and shall include a summary of information provided by student evaluation as part of the supporting evidence for its recommendation.Each institution shall develop systematic and firm procedure(s) for the manner and form of presenting student evaluation material for administrative purposes. Faculty members being evaluated should be informed of, and have the right to, respond to any summaries of student evaluations to be submitted for administrative use.
  3. Student evaluation of instruction as information used in actions on merit salary increase: All faculty members being considered for merit salary increases shall be evaluated by their peers as to their instructional ability, using information from student evaluation of their instruction, as well as other information relevant to assessment, at least once every three years. The intent of this policy is to delegate to the institutions and their faculties decision as to the minimal frequency with which full assessment of teaching performance should be undertaken and formal analysis of student evaluation data carried out. It does not, however, imply that more frequent student evaluation might not be wise or desirable in order to provide the most substantial basis for the formal assessment of teaching performance.

N.B. The Policy Statement on Student Evaluation of Instruction shall be applied to all teaching faculty, understanding that UW System institutions should develop analogous procedures for evaluating the performance of faculty who are primarily assigned to continuing education and public service activities.


The Regents ask that by March 1, 1975, each institution report to the Office of Academic Affairs its policies then in effect concerning student evaluation of instruction, together with copies of any instruments in widespread use by the faculty, and a description of any institutional services provided the faculty member or department in carrying out evaluation procedures. It is assumed that by this date (March 1, 1975), all campuses will be carrying out the student evaluation actions needed to implement the requirements of section 2, foregoing. It is further assumed that the process of developing, testing, and phasing in an institutional policy and practice concerning student evaluation will be completed not later than July 1, 1976. The Office of Academic Affairs shall summarize such information in a report to the Regents, and, as requested by the Council of Chancellors, shall assist in disseminating information on practice within the System to the several institutions.


History: Res. 868 adopted 10/4/74.  Technical corrections made on 11/15/2018, as authorized by Res. 10835 (adopted 3/9/2017).

See Also:

SYS 185, College Credit in High School (formerly G36)

SYS 1278, UW System Pay Plan Distribution Framework for University Workforce (formerly TC 4)

[UW System Administrative policies are included for reference and are separate from Regent Policy Documents adopted by the Board.]