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Evaluating Students’ Evaluations of Professors


Often times, there can be some misleading data about student evaluations of professors. For example, students may not rate a professor on how much they learned but rather how much they liked the class or how easy they thought it was.

Key Points

  • Not surprisingly, studies have shown that teachers that give higher grades get better evaluations. This is thought as the key to grade inflation.
    • There is an idea that students care more about grades and the university cares more about teaching.
    • Students ratings are put into question. They can potentially give false ratings to good professors.
  • The article states, “Students dislike exerting effort, especially the least able ones, and when asked to evaluate the teacher they do so on the basis of how much they enjoyed the course. As a consequence, good teachers can get bad evaluations, especially if they teach classes with a lot of bad students.”
  • Article states that students evaluate professor more negatively on rainy or cold days.
  • The article additionally states, “students evaluate teachers on the basis of their enjoyment of the course or, in the words of economists, on the basis of their realized utility.”
  • Since there is serious question on the quality of student ratings there are some things that can be done.
    • Article says, “since the evaluations of the best students are more aligned with actual teachers’ effectiveness, the opinions of the very good students could be given more weight in the measurement of professors’ performance. In order to do so, some degree of anonymity of the evaluations must be lost but there is no need for the teachers to identify the students.”
    • Article says, “one may think of adopting exam formats that reduce the returns to teaching-to-the-test, although this may come at larger costs due to the additional time needed to grade less standardized tests. At the same time, the extent of grade leniency could be greatly limited by making sure that teaching and grading are done by different persons.”
    • Article says, “Alternatively, questionnaires could be administered at a later point in the academic track to give students the time to appreciate the real value of teaching in subsequent learning (or even in the market). Obviously, this would also pose problems in terms of recall bias and possible retaliation for low grading.

Discussion Questions

  1. What would be the best way to measure teacher effectiveness?
  2. What are the best ways to have students rate professors?

Link to Article