Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What happens when an economist measures teaching quality?

... probably not what you're expecting.

"Although assessment exercises are nowadays a widespread practice in educational systems, we lack an effective understanding of what is the actual feedback effect on the overall efficiency (macro level) of the system and on the individual level (micro level). Given the lack of any sort of incentive to perform better in teaching activity, I formulated the hypothesis that this effect is null (at least for the Italian academic system), implying that the overall quality of teaching which is supplied does not change over time. Even worse, I claimed that the same is true at the individual level. ... This study ... shows that the evaluation of teaching quality might not have been conducive in improving it. On the one hand, it is possible that feedback from the questionnaire was not used effectively, and on the other (much more plausible) that the incentive system is not working properly. This last argument might entail dramatic consequences for the Italian academic system (and in general for European education systems), which tends to be increasingly research-oriented and neglects teaching duties. At this point one crucial question remains open: does it make any sense to continue carrying out teaching quality assessment when it does not enhance teaching performance? The tentative answer is ‘no’, at least until some incentives are introduced for providing better teaching or a more efficient teaching performance management is established."

Bianchini, Stefano. Feedback effects of teaching quality assessment: macro and micro evidence. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education (2013): 1-15. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2013.842957
Abstract: This study investigates the feedback effects of teaching quality assessment. Previous literature looked separately at the evolution of individual and aggregate scores to understand whether instructors and university performance depends on its past evaluation. I propose a new quantitative-based methodology, combining statistical distributions and transition probabilities matrices, to take into account the dynamics of teaching quality over time both at the macro and the micro level. Using a three-year longitudinal panel from an Italian university, it is shown that evaluation exercises do not impact future teaching performance at either the university level or the individual level.

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