The Truth is Powerful
Measuring Teaching Quality in Higher Education
For every college professor, teaching is an important part of their job.
For most college professors, who are not located at relatively few research-oriented universities, teaching the main part of their job. So how can we evaluate whether teaching is being done well or poorly? This question applies both at the individual level, but also for bigger institutional questions: for example, are faculty with lifetime tenure, who were granted tenure in substantial part for their performance as researchers, better teachers than faculty with short-term contracts? David Figlio and Morton Schapiro tackle such questions in “Staffing the Higher Education Classroom” ( Journal of Economic Perspectives , Winter 2021, 35:1, 143-62).
The question of how to evaluate college teaching isn’t easy. For example, there are not annual exams as often occur at the K-12 level, nor are certain classes followed by a common exam like the AP exams in high school. My experience is that the faculty colleges and universities are not especially good at self-policing of teaching. In some cases, newly hired faculty get some feedback and guidance, and there are hallway discussions about especially awful teachers, but that’s about it. Many colleges and universities have questionnaires on which students can […]