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10.16.2003

Why teaching evaluations suck 

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:


Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Amy Parker, one of his students, found that attractive professors consistently outscore their less comely colleagues by a significant margin on student evaluations of teaching. The findings, they say, raise serious questions about the use of student evaluations as a valid measure of teaching quality.

In their study, Mr. Hamermesh and Ms. Parker asked students to look at photographs of 94 professors and rate their beauty. Then they compared those ratings to the average student evaluation scores for the courses taught by those professors. The two found that the professors who had been rated among the most beautiful scored a point higher than those rated least beautiful (that's a substantial difference, since student evaluations don't generally vary by much).


The students who rated the professors' attractiveness weren't the same ones who wrote the evaluations, but still the result is disturbing (though not surprising). I can honestly say that I've known attractive instructors who were lousy teachers, and not-as-attractive instructors who were excellent teachers.

Not that I have anything to worry about, though.

(Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.)

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