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GMS Z Med Ausbild. 2013 Aug 15;30(3):Doc32. doi: 10.3205/zma000875. eCollection 2013.

The effects of anonymity on student ratings of teaching and course quality in a bachelor degree programme.

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Bern University of Applied Sciences, degree programme Nursing, Bern, Schweiz.


in English, German


Are there any clear differences between the outcomes of anonymous and personalised student evaluations of teaching quality?


During a two-year period students were randomly divided into two separate groups, "anonymous" and "personalised", for end-of-module evaluations. The quality of the module was assessed using a standardised questionnaire. Additionally, students were given the option to add "further comments" if they wanted to highlight specifics. These optional comments were independently assessed by three people, using a five-dimensional rating instrument: positive/negative; differentiated/absolute; naming a person/general; containing an order/neutral; visually accentuated/blank. The database consisted of 615 evaluation forms, of which 306 were completed anonymously. In order to identify whether there were any differences between the anonymous and personalised data, a multivariate variance analysis was performed. Based on the scale, the answers to the questions and the quality of the comments were evaluated. Furthermore, an assessment was made to determine if there were any differences in the number of optional comments between the two groups.


No significant differences were identified in the informative quality of data between the anonymous and personalised student evaluations. However, students in the personalised group had a tendency to include more details in their written answers.


Personalised evaluations do not generate more biased results in terms of social desirability, as long as the evaluation concept is characterised by a closed-circle process and is transparent. In other words, it is imperative that the outcomes of the evaluation are reported back to the students. Moreover, there has to be an opportunity for students to discuss any further suggestions and/or future desires in an open environment. In this way the students respect and understand that their feedback is being taken seriously; consequently, they feel able to provide a constructive and honest evaluation.


Education; curriculum development; programme evaluation; respondent anonymity

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