Student Perceptions of Faculty Instructional Value-Added: A New Measure and Exploratory Empirical Evidence

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Students react to two basic things when they are asked to rate a college course. Their ratings will reflect a certain response to the course content and to the method in which that content was delivered by a faculty person. We should expect that the resulting opinion of the teacher exists somewhat independent of the value that students perceive in the content of the courses that are taught. This paper defines this difference as a teacher's instructional value-added. That some teachers are more successful than others in impressing students is difficult to deny. However, little is known about the nature of this increment. Using data from one school, the paper shows how instructional value-added perceived by students is distributed by discipline, by level, and by individual. Separate results are also provided for accounting classes. Suggestions for future research involving the instructional valueadded construct are made as part of our continuing effort to understand and evaluate post-secondary instruction.

Key words: Student Evaluation of Teaching, Teaching Performance, Student Perceptions

Data availability: Data used in this study can be obtained by contacting the second author at b.hogan@neu.edu

INTRODUCTION

Qualitative studies of academics show that desire to be a good teacher is a noble aspiration that is both widespread and genuine (e.g., Clark, 1987). Despite considerable attention on the research activities of the modern professoriate, quality teaching remains the central component of the role, as it is understood by most of academe's internal and external constituents.

Professors are provided teaching assignments in subject matter in which they have some degree of expertise. However, most faculty do not unilaterally control the curriculum. In an ideal world, all faculty could convince all students that any subject matter in the curriculum is critical to them and an equally valuable increment to the accomplishment of their career and personal objectives. In a realistic world, all courses are not equally valued by students. Instructors assigned to difficult courses that lack an immediate and compelling connection to student lives may appear to be less than good teachers, merely because they have been unable to overcome the inherent limitation of the material. Others, fortunate to teach material that possesses elements likely to be better received, may benefit from a halo effect and therefore have their teaching overly praised. This less than level playing field complicates our ability to appreciate the efforts of faculty in the classroom.

This paper is premised on the importance of better understanding how students perceive the contributions to learning made by their faculty. For this purpose, the paper makes the case that it is necessary to control for variation attributable to the subject matter. When one does, that which remains can be called the teacher's instructional value-added. Although instructional value-added is a somewhat ambitious and multifaceted term, its tentative identification permits important avenues of inquiry into higher education. Using student ratings data from one highly ranked private business school, this paper describes dimensions of this exploratory construct. The data suggests that instructional value-added is a stable construct that can inform us about our students' worldview as well as our faculty's efforts.

This paper uses three subsequent sections. The first motivates the inquiry and reviews the related literature. The second identifies specific research questions and provides a method to test them. The final section describes the results and offers a discussion of their implications and limitations.

BACKGROUND AND LITERATURE REVIEW

The demand for accountability serves as a sign of the times. Institutions of higher education, especially those that are supported by taxpayers, have been no exception. The interest in how public and private money is being spent translates into many rather unprecedented questions that are now being asked about how colleges and universities operate. …