Saturday, June 12, 2010

Do student evaluations reflect learning?

The buzz this week in academia is over the latest lead article to the flagship economics journal, the Journal of Political Economy. In "Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors" Scott E. Carrell and James E. West use "a unique data that allow us to measure relative student performance in mandatory follow‐on classes."
At the postsecondary level, student evaluations of professors are widely used in faculty promotion and tenure decisions. However, teachers can influence these measures in ways that may reduce actual student learning. Teachers can “teach to the test.” Professors can inflate grades or reduce academic content to elevate student evaluations. Given this, how well do each of these measures correlate with the desired outcome of actual student learning?
...our results indicate that professors who excel at promoting contemporaneous student achievement, on average, harm the subsequent performance of their students in more advanced classes....

Student evaluations are positively correlated with contemporaneous professor value‐added and negatively correlated with follow‐on student achievement. That is, students appear to reward higher grades in the introductory course but punish professors who increase deep learning (introductory course professor value‐added in follow‐on courses). Since many U.S. colleges and universities use student evaluations as a measurement of teaching quality for academic promotion and tenure decisions, this latter finding draws into question the value and accuracy of this practice.
The take away? Use your low student evaluations as evidence of your teaching prowess.

In other related news:

1. In Russia, the 'Ask the Audience' lifeline isn't one that the contestant would often use because the audience often gives wrong answers intentionally to trick the contestants. [

2. At the primary and secondary level where teachers and principles are evaluated by student performance on standardized tests, here is the latest example that
Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper With Tests.



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