The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

3 Evaluating the effectiveness of seminars

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Seminars may be evaluated according to their objectives or according to whether the processes in the seminar might be expected to achieve the objectives. Evaluating a seminar according to whether it has achieved its stated objectives is perfectly sensible in principle, but there are limitations to carrying out this out in practice. First, many objectives cannot be achieved in a single session. Second, it may be difficult fully to assess within the session whether the objectives have been achieved. Evaluation is, therefore, unlikely to rely solely on assessing outcomes. Evaluating the way in which the seminar was conducted is, in any case, central to developing practice.

Evaluation may also be conducted by the seminar leader, an academic colleague, an external evaluator or the students. In principle, the criteria for evaluation ought to be the same whoever is carrying out the evaluation. The usefulness to lecturers of evaluations carried out by external agencies and by students will depend in large part on the measure to which there is agreement about the criteria used in the evaluation. For example, students may judge that a session is uninteresting even if it has contributed to longer-term goals of the programme. However, other things being equal, we would expect the level of students’ interest to contribute to the quality of their learning.