Thursday, May 12, 2011

Students hate good teachers

Teachers often find student evaluations rather frustrating. They are contradictory, short-sighted and sometimes insulting, especially when students did not put much effort in the class in the first place. Student evaluations are also biased towards teachers who are physically more appealing. And students, with their lack of experience and expertise, are not in a good position to evaluate an expert. What more could be said against student evaluations?

Michela Braga, Marco Paccagnella and Michele Pellizzari find that better teachers get worse evaluations. The way they measure teacher effectiveness is by looking at how students do in subsequent classes. They find that teachers matter, and substantially as the teacher can explain 43% of the standard deviation in subsequent grades. But the good teachers get a worse student evaluation, which is frightening, because administrators are getting the wrong message.

From the tables, I gather that higher ranked faculty teach better, but older and researchers with higher H-indexes do worse, which is rather contradictory. I wonder whether taking into account the obviously high correlation between some of the independent variables would take care of this, or other controls, like the attractiveness mentioned above.


Anonymous said...

As far as I can see, the study - and the results - are very similar to Carrell & West, 2010 (

Anonymous said...

A good teacher is based on two things:
-Explaining the material well.
-The course content.
The course content is probably the most important factor in making a student better at the subject. I've benefited very much from taking courses from professors who have a really bad english, are not good at communicating or keeping you interested during the lecture. But their notes were amazing: there was a clear logical progression, everything was very well defined, and most importantly, the course was challenging and the problem sets made you think. At the time, I would have rated them as bad teachers due to their poor communication abilities. In retrospect, I would much prefer a bad communicator to an excellent professor with unstructured notes.
So maybe teacher evaluations should be done after students are done with the course and exams, and not during the year. That way they could compare what they have learnt in that course to other ones.