Does Teacher Quality Affect Student Performance? Evidence from an Italian University
In this paper we analyse whether the characteristics of university teaching staff matter with regards students’ performance and interest in the discipline. We use data on about one thousand students enrolled on the first level degree course in Business and Economics at a medium sized Italian University. Thanks to the random assignment of students to different teaching sections during their first year, we are able to analyze the effect that teachers with different characteristics, in terms of experience and research productivity, produce both on students’ performance, measured in terms of the grades obtained at subsequent exams and courses chosen. Our results suggest that teacher quality has statistically significant effects on students’ grades on subsequent courses. These effects are also robust after controlling for unobserved individual characteristics. On the other hand, we find less clear evidence when relating teacher quality to student involvement with a subject. It emerges that more experienced teachers have a negative impact on the probability of a student’s undertaking additional courses in a subject, while research productivity does not produce a statistically significant effect.
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