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What Explains This?

What Explains This? September 18, 2013

Adjuncts outperform tenured professors in teaching evaluations.

From Dan Berrett:

Students learned more when their first in­struc­tor in a dis­ci­pline was not on the ten­ure track, as com­pared with those whose in­tro­duc­tory pro­fes­sor was tenured, ac­cord­ing to a new pa­per from Northwestern University.

The paper, “Are Ten­ure-Track Professors Bet­ter Teachers?,” was re­leased on Mon­day by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and it sheds new light on the hot­ly debat­ed top­ic of whether the in­creased use of ad­junct instructors is help­ing or hin­der­ing stu­dents’ learn­ing.

The re­search­ers found “strong and con­sis­tent ev­i­dence that Northwestern fac­ul­ty out­side of the ten­ure sys­tem out­per­form ten­ure track/ten­ured pro­fes­sors in intro­duc­tory undergraduate class­rooms,” wrote Da­vid N. Figlio, director of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research; Mor­ton O. Scha­piro, the uni­ver­si­ty’s pres­i­dent; and Kev­in B. So­ter, an as­so­ciate con­sult­ant at an organization called the Great­est Good, which uses economic methods and data analysis to help businesses.

They also found that stu­dents who were rel­a­tive­ly less qual­i­fied ac­a­demi­cal­ly fared par­tic­u­lar­ly well when they were taught by fac­ul­ty members out­side the tenure sys­tem, es­pe­cial­ly in courses where high grades were gen­er­al­ly tough­er to earn.

“We tried ev­ery pos­si­ble thing we could to see if this re­sult was frag­ile,” Mr. Figlio said in an in­ter­view. “In ev­ery sin­gle speci­fi­ca­tion we tried, this re­sult came up.”


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