Academic journal article Journal of Financial Education

Student Evaluations of Finance Faculty: Perceived Difficulty Means Lower Faculty Evaluations

Academic journal article Journal of Financial Education

Student Evaluations of Finance Faculty: Perceived Difficulty Means Lower Faculty Evaluations

Article excerpt

This study compares student ratings of finance professors to faculty ratings in other academic disciplines and identifies some of the factors responsible for those differences using data from RateMyProfessors.com. Empirical results show that students in finance classes perceive their classes as significantly more difficult than students in many other disciplines do and that these different perceptions are associated with significantly lower teacher evaluations for finance faculty. These results indicate that lower teaching ratings may be more a function of discipline based student perceptions of class difficulty rather than a function of professor teaching ability. These findings are important for any finance faculty member who must provide teaching evaluations as part of annual reviews and tenure and promotion applications. The results should also serve as a warning to administrators and committees that comparison of teaching ratings across disciplines is often an invalid basis for assessing relative teaching proficiency and effectiveness.

INTRODUCTION

Almost every finance faculty member must include student generated faculty evaluations for annual merit reviews and promotion and tenure applications. It is a widely held belief by most finance faculty that their discipline is more rigorous and demanding than many other disciplines, both within the business school and across the broader university community. If students rate professors lower in classes they perceive as being more difficult, finance faculty will have lower teaching ratings relative to other professors teaching in disciplines that students perceive as being easier. This will put them at a disadvantage when administrators and performance review committees compare their teaching ratings to those professors from less rigorous disciplines. The purpose of this study is twofold. First, the study examines the relationship between students' perceptions of the degree of ease or difficulty associated with classes taught by professors and their ratings of those professors. Second, the study examines how perceptions of the relative ease (or difficulty) of different disciplines impact relative faculty ratings across disciplines and can explain relatively lower faculty ratings for finance professors. These issues are not addressed in any of the past studies that focus on teaching ratings in the finance discipline. The major contribution ofthis study is that students perceive finance classes as relatively more difficult than other classes and that this perception results in systematic and significant lower average teaching evaluations for finance faculty. The findings also indicate that lower teaching ratings may be more a function of class structure and content rather than a function of teaching ability.

The next section of the paper discusses the web based faculty evaluation platform known as RateMyProfessors.com (RMP hereafter) and presents a review of the relevant literature relating to RMP ratings and traditional school administered Student Evaluations of Teachers (SET hereafter). The second section discusses the data and variables used in the empirical analysis and the third section explains the methodology employed. The fourth section presents the results of the analysis of the RMP faculty evaluation data. The final section summarizes the major findings, draws some conclusions and discusses implications for finance faculty who are required to include school based SET results in their annual evaluations and applications for promotion and tenure.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The focus of this research is on the differences in faculty ratings between finance and other disciplines and the identification of the main reason for those differences. Since the empirical analysis employs faculty ratings data from RMP rather than school based SET evaluations, the issue of whether RMP ratings data are comparable to more traditional school generated SET faculty ratings is examined first and the relevant literature is reviewed. …

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