This study shows how the medical degree programme at the Faculty of Medicine in Oslo has developed and assessed a system for students' evaluation of lectures. Both the students and the lecturers had a positive attitude to the scheme, and we have placed a large emphasis on sharing and discussing the results with the different academic communities. Most of the lecturers said the evaluations were useful, and more than half had made changes to their lectures based on the feedback. Given that most lecturers met most of the criteria in the form and generally received good feedback, we consider this to be a very positive result.
The students had chosen to focus on the lectures, which is a classic but also criticised form of teaching. Lectures are effective in the sense that one teacher can teach a large number of students, but they are also highly dependent on this person's communication skills. Moreover, lectures are largely based on one-way communication and have limited potential for activating critical thinking and problem solving among the students. A number of studies show that lectures generally lead to poorer learning outcomes than more active learning methods (9). Accordingly, there is an international trend in which lectures are being replaced with student-activating teaching methods, such as team-based learning or flipped classrooms (10). Nevertheless, lectures still play an important role in many study programmes, including the medical degree programme at the University of Oslo. In this project, therefore, we have given the lecturers structured feedback on how they can improve their lectures, where one of the quality criteria was the use of student-activating elements.
Student evaluation as a measure of quality in education is associated with considerable uncertainty and should be interpreted with caution (4). Student evaluations can entail elements of a popularity contest that does not necessarily reflect the true quality and learning outcome of the teaching. This criticism is supported by studies that have examined the validity of summative student evaluations. A common weakness concerns a lack of validation of questionnaires. Students may be biased in areas such as gender and ethnicity, and evaluations conducted after the completion of a course may lack nuance and be influenced by the result of the exam (11).
The purpose of this project was therefore not to introduce student evaluation as an objective measure of quality in education, but to provide the individual lecturer with feedback on how the teaching can be improved. Summative evaluation of the individual teacher can be perceived as a form of control and criticism, whereas our intention was to evaluate the lectures in a way that was constructive and supportive. We assume that an evaluation form that subjectively scores the lecture on a scale from 1 to 5 would have been met with more resistance. It was also essential that the evaluation was given immediately after the lecture, directly from the students to the lecturers. The students' initiative and involvement thereby helped to legitimise the scheme in the academic communities.
Another success criterion was that the scheme was not labour-intensive. From the lecturers' perspective, it entailed an email from the students with specific suggestions on how the lecture could be improved. For the individual student, all that was required was 5–10 minutes to evaluate a lecture 2–3 times each semester. The task of the study coordinators was to create an online form and convene meetings with the cohort's representatives once per semester. The main task was that of the cohort's representatives, who organised the rotation of students and sent regular reminders to ensure that the evaluations were carried out. However, despite all their efforts, less than a third of the lectures were evaluated, and it is therefore important to find solutions that both simplify and stimulate the role of the representative as an advocate and a motivator for the continuation of the scheme.
The technical solution we chose for the evaluations was the University of Oslo's data collection program Nettskjema. This ensured internal and secure processing of the information. During the project period, we faced challenges related to how the students could send evaluation forms anonymously to the individual lecturers, and the students chose to forward these via an external email address. This problem was solved, and we are now working on technical solutions that further simplify the evaluation procedure. In the future, we envisage the evaluation of several types of teaching, in addition to lectures, by means of a mobile app.