Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors

38 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2008  

Scott E. Carrell

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

James E. West

Baylor University

Date Written: June 2008

Abstract

It is difficult to measure teaching quality at the postsecondary level because students typically "self-select" their coursework and their professors. Despite this, student evaluations of professors are widely used in faculty promotion and tenure decisions. We exploit the random assignment of college students to professors in a large body of required coursework to examine how professor quality affects student achievement. Introductory course professors significantly affect student achievement in contemporaneous and follow-on related courses, but the effects are quite heterogeneous across subjects. Students of professors who as a group perform well in the initial mathematics course perform significantly worse in follow-on related math, science, and engineering courses. We find that the academic rank, teaching experience, and terminal degree status of mathematics and science professors are negatively correlated with contemporaneous student achievement, but positively related to follow-on course achievement. Across all subjects, student evaluations of professors are positive predictors of contemporaneous course achievement, but are poor predictors of follow-on course achievement.

Suggested Citation

Carrell, Scott E. and West, James E., Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors (June 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14081. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1149329

Scott E. Carrell (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States

James E. West

Baylor University ( email )

Waco, TX 76798
United States
254-710-6126 (Phone)

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