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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Student Evaluations

According to Professor Paul Caro of TaxProf, a new study has been completed concerning what factors are important to students when evaluating courses.  The abstract for the study follows:

College students publicly rate their professors' teaching at RateMyProfessors.com, a web page where students anonymously judge their professors on Quality, Easiness, and Sexiness. Using the data from this web site, we examine the relations between Quality, Easiness, and Sexiness for 3,190 professors at 25 universities. For faculty with at least 10 student posts, the correlation between Quality and Easiness is 0.61, and the correlation between Quality and Sexiness is 0.30. Using simple linear regression, we find that about half of the variation in Quality is a function of Easiness and Sexiness. Accordingly, these results suggest that about half of the variation in student opinion survey scores used by universities for promotion, tenure, and teaching award decisions may be due to the easiness of the course and the sexiness of the professor. When grouped into sexy and non-sexy professors, the data reveal that students give sexy-rated professors higher Quality and Easiness scores. Based on these findings, universities need to rethink the use of student opinion surveys as a valid measure of teaching effectiveness. High student opinion survey scores might well be viewed with suspicion rather than reverence, since they might indicate a lack of rigor, little student learning, and grade inflation.

The full article is available here.  Of course, Professor Caron notes that tax professors may be disadvantaged because their courses are not easy - has he heard of ERISA, Fraud and Abuse and HIPAA??  Anyway, I am not sure why sexiness is being rated on the RateMYProfessor.com.  I don't think that anyone I know would change their teaching style or appearance if law school student evaluations suddenly did consider such a factor.  Now if a study showed that teacher sexiness improves a school's U.S. News and World Report Ranking, well -- I cannot say what various administrations would do but . . . .   [bm]

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