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Evaluating Students' Evaluations of Professors

Author

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  • Braga, Michela

    () (University of Milan)

  • Paccagnella, Marco

    () (OECD)

  • Pellizzari, Michele

    () (University of Geneva)

Abstract

This paper contrasts measures of teacher effectiveness with the students' evaluations for the same teachers using administrative data from Bocconi University (Italy). The effectiveness measures are estimated by comparing the subsequent performance in follow-on coursework of students who are randomly assigned to teachers in each of their compulsory courses. We find that, even in a setting where the syllabuses are fixed and all teachers in the same course present exactly the same material, teachers still matter substantially. The average difference in subsequent performance between students who were assigned to the best and worst teacher (on the effectiveness scale) is approximately 43% of a standard deviation in the distribution of exam grades, corresponding to about 5.6% of the average grade. Additionally, we find that our measure of teacher effectiveness is negatively correlated with the students' evaluations: in other words, teachers who are associated with better subsequent performance receive worst evaluations from their students. We rationalize these results with a simple model where teachers can either engage in real teaching or in teaching-to-the-test, the former requiring higher students’ effort than the latter. Teaching-to-the-test guarantees high grades in the current course but does not improve future outcomes. Hence, if students are myopic and evaluate better teachers from which they derive higher utility in a static framework, the model is capable of predicting our empirical finding that good teachers receive bad evaluations, especially when teaching-to-the-test is very effective (for example, with multiple choice tests). Consistently with the predictions of the model, we also find that classes in which high skill students are over-represented produce evaluations that are less at odds with estimated teacher effectiveness.

Suggested Citation

  • Braga, Michela & Paccagnella, Marco & Pellizzari, Michele, 2011. "Evaluating Students' Evaluations of Professors," IZA Discussion Papers 5620, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5620
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    Cited by:

    1. Angelo Antoci & Irene Brunetti & Pierluigi Sacco & Mauro Sodini, 2017. "Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET), social influence dynamics, and teachers' choices: An evolutionary model," Discussion Papers 2017/225, Dipartimento di Economia e Management (DEM), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
    2. Marta De Philippis, 2015. "Multitask Agents and Incentives: The Case of Teaching and Research for University Professors," CEP Discussion Papers dp1386, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. Abílio António Freitas Belo, 2017. "The evaluation of the Higher Education lecturer competences in East Timor: a student inquiry," Review of Social Sciences, LAR Center Press, vol. 2(1), pages 36-51, January.
    4. Michela Braga & Marco Paccagnella & Michele Pellizzari, 2014. "The academic and labor market returns of university professors," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 981, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    5. Stefano Bianchini & Francesco Lissoni & Michele Pezzoni & Lorenzo Zirulia, 2016. "The economics of research, consulting, and teaching quality: theory and evidence from a technical university," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(7), pages 668-691, October.
    6. Rodríguez, Rosa & Rubio, Gonzalo, 2016. "Teaching quality and academic research," International Review of Economics Education, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 10-27.
    7. Mengel, Friederike & Sauermann, Jan & Zölitz, Ulf, 2017. "Gender Bias in Teaching Evaluations," IZA Discussion Papers 11000, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Beleche, Trinidad & Fairris, David & Marks, Mindy, 2012. "Do course evaluations truly reflect student learning? Evidence from an objectively graded post-test," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 709-719.
    9. Michela Braga & Marco Paccagnella & Michele Pellizzari, 2016. "The Impact of College Teaching on Students’ Academic and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(3), pages 781-822.
    10. Sapelli, Claudio & Illanes, Gastón, 2016. "Class size and teacher effects in higher education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 19-28.
    11. repec:spr:reihed:v:58:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s11162-016-9437-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Artés, Joaquín & Pedraja-Chaparro, Francisco & Salinas-JiméneZ, Mª del Mar, 2017. "Research performance and teaching quality in the Spanish higher education system: Evidence from a medium-sized university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 19-29.
    13. repec:spr:reihed:v:58:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11162-016-9429-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Wagner, N. & Rieger, M. & Voorvelt, K.J., 2016. "Gender, ethnicity and teaching evaluations : Evidence from mixed teaching teams," ISS Working Papers - General Series 617, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    15. Anna Salomons & Maarten Goos, 2014. "Measuring Teaching Quality in Higher Education : Assessing the Problem of Selection Bias in Course Evaluations," Working Papers 14-16, Utrecht School of Economics.
    16. Gorry, Devon, 2017. "The impact of grade ceilings on student grades and course evaluations: Evidence from a policy change," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 133-140.
    17. Boring, Anne, 2017. "Gender biases in student evaluations of teaching," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 27-41.
    18. Rieger, Matthias & Voorvelt, Katherine, 2016. "Gender, ethnicity and teaching evaluations: Evidence from mixed teaching teamsAuthor-Name: Wagner, Natascha," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 79-94.
    19. Donghun Cho & Joonmo Cho, 2017. "Does More Accurate Knowledge of Course Grade Impact Teaching Evaluation?," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 12(2), pages 224-240, Spring.

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    Keywords

    postsecondary education; teacher quality;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General

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