NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

Scott E. Carrell, James E. West

NBER Working Paper No. 14081
Issued in June 2008
NBER Program(s):   ED

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.

download in pdf format
   (629 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (629 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14081

Published: Scott E. Carrell & James E. West, 2010. "Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(3), pages 409-432, 06.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Figlio, Schapiro, and Soter w19406 Are Tenure Track Professors Better Teachers?
Hoffman and Oreopoulos w12596 Professor Qualities and Student Achievement
Weinberg, Fleisher, and Hashimoto w12844 Evaluating Methods for Evaluating Instruction: The Case of Higher Education
Kane and Staiger w14607 Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation
Carrell, Page, and West w14959 Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us