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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
CAUDLE, A. D. (1999). Leading Questions and Student Evaluations. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 2. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 9, 2023 .

Leading Questions and Student Evaluations
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
A leading question is one that either by its form or content suggests to the subject what answer is desired. By using leading questions experimenters have been able to demonstrate effects on guessing measurements, past personal experience, and recently witnessed events. The purpose of my study was to see if leading questions would have any affect on the faculty evaluations at Missouri Western State College. The participants in this study were 68 male and female college students at Missouri Western State College. Three slightly different eight question surveys were given. Results of my study showed no significance in the wording of the question or the scale used.

A leading question is simply one that, either by its form or content, suggests to the subject what answer is desired or leads him/her to the desired answer (Loftus & Palmer, 1974). It has been demonstrated with guessing measurements, past personal experience, and recently witnessed events. An example of guessing measurements would be if you showed a person a picture of a basketball player and then asked, "How tall was the basketball player?" or "How short was the basketball player?" When asking how short someone is, that is presupposing that they are short. A presupposition is a condition that must hold in order for the question to be contextually appropriate. On average subjects guess about 79" on the tall question and 69" on the short question (Loftus, 1975). An example of past personal experience would be asking questions dealing with the amount of products they use for headaches. Subjects were given one of two questions: 1) In terms of the total number of products, how many other products have you tried? 1? 2? 3? 2) In terms of the total number of products, how many other products have you tried? 1? 5? 10?The 1/2/3 subjects claim to have tried on an average on 3.3 other products whereas the 1/5/10 subjects claim to have tried an average of 5.2 other products (Loftus, 1975). In terms of recently witnessed events an example would be watching an automobile accident and trying to answer questions about it. It is well documented that most people are inaccurate in reporting such numerical details as time. speed, and distance (Loftus & Palmer, 1974). In some studies in 1974, subjects were shown films of automobile accidents and then were given leading questions to see how they could be influenced. Questions that were asked had only one word changed. "How fast were the cars going when they hit each other", in this question the word hit would be replaced with other words such as smashed, collided, bumped, and contacted. When the word smashed was used results showed that the subject estimated the car to be traveling at a faster speed then when the word bumped was used (Loftus & Palmer, 1974). In some related studies, the words "the" and "a" were used to see if there was a difference when using definite and indefinite articles. The questions were, "Did you see a broken headlight?" or "Did you see the broken headlight?" The results showed that the indefinite article "a" got more I don`t know answers. The definite article "the" got more false recognitions (Loftus & Zanni, 1975). Leading questions are very important to the justice system. If a person asks a leading question after an accident it can actually change the witnesses memory. In another example the use of leading questions can be used to plant false memories. Subjects were shown 4 film clips approximately 4 minutes in length. The subjects saw films of 4 different crimes: a bank robbery, a warehouse break-in, a liquor store robbery and shooting, and a domestic disturbance (Loftus, Nucci, Hoffman, 1998). About a week later the subjects were brought back in and asked a series of multiple choice questions. There were 10 multiple choice questions regarding a drug bust which was not a scenario they had witnessed. By asking the leading question that presupposed a drug bust 100% of the subjects reported remembering that event a week after the first set of questions, and 64% offered a description of the events that occurred during the bust (Loftus, Nucci, Hoffman, 1998).The purpose of my study is to see if leading questions will have any affect on the outcome of the faculty evaluations at Missouri Western State College located in St Joseph Missouri. The proposed outcome will be that given different types of questions and available responses the rating of a teacher will change. When given positively leading question, a teacher should be rated higher than with negatively leading question.

The participants in this study were approximately 68 introductory psychology and intermediate psychology students at Missouri Western State College. Subjects were male and female. Missouri Western State College is located in St Joseph Missouri. It is a medium sized public college.

Three separate surveys were used. The Missouri Western State College Student Evaluation of Faculty form was used as a model. One survey had the same questions and possible responses as the Missouri Western State College Student Evaluation of Faculty form. The questions were 1) prepared and organized, 2) evaluates fairly, 3) objectives accomplished, 4) provides assistance, 5) presents clearly, 6) tests reflect material, 7) manages course effectively, and 8) overall effective. The response choices were "exceptional", "above average", "average", "below average", "poor",and "not applicable". The second survey had the same questions but different responses. The responses for the second survey were "strongly agree", "agree", "unsure", disagree", and "strongly disagree". The third survey had the same questions but they were asked in a negative way. They had same responses as the second survey.

Surveys were handed out in one introductory psychology class and one intermediate psychology class on campus at Missouri Western State College. All three types of surveys were randomly given out in the same class. Students were not informed of the different types of surveys. Students were instructed to fill out the survey by rating the teacher of the class they were in at the time.

In this experiment, eight one way ANOVA tests were used to determine whether the negatively leading questions or change in scale would have an effect. The question concerning prepared and organized showed a non significant trend F(2,65)=2.602, p=.082 The rest of the questions showed no significance or trends. prepared and organized F(2,65)=2.602, p=.082evaluates fairly F(2,65)=.275, p=.774objectives accomplished F(2,65)=.234, p=.792provides assistance F(2,65)=.239, p=.788presents clearly F(2,65)=.685, p=.508tests reflect material F(2,65)= 2.235, p=.115manages course effectively F(2,65)= 1.352, p=.266overall effective F(2,65)=1.467, p=.238The means for all the questions can be found in Figure 1.

For this experiment, the findings did not support my hypothesis leading questions and would have an effect on the rating of faculty. One of the questions showed a non significant trend, but the others showed no significance at all. This was not the finding that would be suggested by research. It is possible that the subjects recognized a difference in the surveys and then became more aware of the questions. I observed that during the administration of the surveys, many students were talking and comparing surveys.Many of the faculty at Missouri Western State College believe that the students that fill out the questionnaires at the end of each semester are not reading the questions, my data shows that students did in fact read the questions and the responses. Otherwise there should have been a difference in the answers. The response options didn`t seem to make a difference either with students answering the same whether the response choices ranged from "exceptional" to "poor" or "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree". This experiment could be replicated and control for student talking to each other may change the results. Also, comparing first semester students who have never taken the survey with seniors who have taken it countless times may have an affect. Comparing to students who don`t attend Missouri Western State College could also have an affect. The last suggestion for future research would be to use forms exactly like the forms used now. This experiment did not show the effect that it was designed to show, but at the same time it showed that subtle changes in the forms used at Missouri Western State College do not have an effect on the answers given. This is useful information for the Missouri Western State College to look at when deciding whether to change the survey.

Loftus, E. F. (1975). Leading questions and eyewitness reports. Cognitive Psychology, 7, 560-572. Loftus, E. F., Nucci, M., Hoffman, H. (1998). Manufacturing memory. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 16, 63-75. Loftus, E. F. & Palmer, J. C. (1974). Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and behavior. Journal of Verbal and Learning Behavior, 13, 585-589. Loftus, E. F. & Zanni, G. (1975). Eyewitness testimony: The influence of the wording of a question. Bulletin of Psychonomic Society, 5, 19-31.

Figure 1

Submitted 5/4/99 12:25:40 PM
Last Edited 5/4/99 12:38:57 PM
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