Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education


Taylor & Francis


School of Nursing and Midwifery




Hutchinson, M., Coutts, R., Massey, D., Nasrawi, D., Fielden, J., Lee, M., & Lakeman, R. (2023). Student evaluation of teaching: Reactions of Australian academics to anonymous non-constructive student commentary. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. Advance online publication.


Within Australian higher education, student evaluation of teaching (SET) is regularly conducted and data are utilised for quality control and staff appraisal. Within current methodologies, students can anonymously provide further feedback as written commentary. There is now growing evidence that, once this narrative becomes derogatory or abusive, it may have the potential to create harm. To investigate staff reactions to receiving anonymous non-constructive commentary, a one group point in time design was constructed, and a survey conducted. Participants (N = 741) from a broad cross-section of Australian universities responded to Likert questions asking about their reactions. A significant impact was revealed according to age for mental health, stress and professional confidence, with younger and tenured academics indicating the most vulnerability. There were no differences across gender. Non-health disciplines with teaching loads greater than 50% reported an impact of anonymous SET on mental health and professional confidence. Being casually or seasonally employed or from an ethnic background was shown to have a significant effect on professional confidence. Findings suggest that the potential for higher education academics to be harmed via this process is a continued risk and highlights the need for review and reform of SET systems and protocols.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.