Evaluating Students' Evaluations of Professors

54 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2011

See all articles by Michela Braga

Michela Braga

Bocconi University, BAFFI-CAREFIN

Marco Paccagnella

Bank of Italy

Michele Pellizzari

University of Geneva - GSEM; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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This paper contrasts measures of teacher effectiveness with the students' evaluations for the same teachers using administrative data from Bocconi University (Italy). The effectiveness measures are estimated by comparing the subsequent performance in follow-on coursework of students who are randomly assigned to teachers in each of their compulsory courses. We find that, even in a setting where the syllabuses are fixed and all teachers in the same course present exactly the same material, teachers still matter substantially. The average difference in subsequent performance between students who were assigned to the best and worst teacher (on the effectiveness scale) is approximately 43% of a standard deviation in the distribution of exam grades, corresponding to about 5.6% of the average grade. Additionally, we find that our measure of teacher effectiveness is negatively correlated with the students' evaluations: in other words, teachers who are associated with better subsequent performance receive worst evaluations from their students. We rationalize these results with a simple model where teachers can either engage in real teaching or in teaching-to-the-test, the former requiring higher studentsメ effort than the latter. Teaching-to-the-test guarantees high grades in the current course but does not improve future outcomes. Hence, if students are myopic and evaluate better teachers from which they derive higher utility in a static framework, the model is capable of predicting our empirical finding that good teachers receive bad evaluations, especially when teaching-to-the-test is very effective (for example, with multiple choice tests). Consistently with the predictions of the model, we also find that classes in which high skill students are over-represented produce evaluations that are less at odds with estimated teacher effectiveness.

Keywords: teacher quality, postsecondary education

JEL Classification: I20

Suggested Citation

Braga, Michela and Paccagnella, Marco and Pellizzari, Michele, Evaluating Students' Evaluations of Professors. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5620, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1812465 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1812465

Michela Braga (Contact Author)

Bocconi University, BAFFI-CAREFIN ( email )

Via Roentgen 1

Marco Paccagnella

Bank of Italy ( email )

Via Nazionale 91
Rome, 00184

Michele Pellizzari

University of Geneva - GSEM ( email )

102 Bd Carl-Vogt
Genève, CH - 1205

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

United Kingdom

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