Friday, October 17, 2003

Do Good Looks Equal Good Evaluations?

Do Good Looks Equal Good Evaluations? For the second day in a row, I am blogging a Chronicle article. Here is the meat of the article today:

"Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Amy Parker, one of his students, found that attractive professors consistently outscore their less comely colleagues by a significant margin on student evaluations of teaching. The findings, they say, raise serious questions about the use of student evaluations as a valid measure of teaching quality."

"In their study, Mr. Hamermesh and Ms. Parker asked students to look at photographs of 94 professors and rate their beauty. Then they compared those ratings to the average student evaluation scores for the courses taught by those professors. The two found that the professors who had been rated among the most beautiful scored a point higher than those rated least beautiful (that's a substantial difference, since student evaluations don't generally vary by much)."

And I thought my good evaluations were based on my teaching ability. Maybe it has been my good looks all along...

It is very difficult to assess the impact of library instruction. With mostly one-shot class sessions and few long term relationships with students, determing how well we are teaching library skills usually means nothing more than a survey which we know does not always tell us what we need to know. And behold, the survey may actually be telling us how good looking we are! I guess if I want to see good results for my BI program, I should have only my cute librarians teach.

I am not surprised by this research. But I am a little dejected. We try so hard to teach well and the students are more concerned about our looks. I guess teaching a lesson based on this survey would in and of itself be a good lesson for information literacy. After all, it is a big mistake to judge a book, website, potential spouse, car, teacher, etc. by appearance alone.