As the study’s authors put it, ‘Appearances Can Be Deceiving: Instructor Fluency Increases Perceptions of Learning Without Increasing Actual Learning.” Or, as Inside Higher Ed put it, when it comes to lectures, Charisma Doesn’t Count, at least not for learning. Perhaps these findings help explain why people love TED talks.
This also relates to some of the things I’ve said about pseudoteaching.
It seems there are actually data to support the idea that often, the most popular professors – you know, the ones who continually crow about their teaching awards – are *not* in fact, the best educators*, merely the best politicians.
When you measure performance in the courses the professors taught (i.e., how intro students did in intro), the less experienced and less qualified professors produced the best performance. They also got the highest student evaluation scores. But more experienced and qualified professors’ students did best in follow-on courses (i.e., their intro students did best in advanced classes).
The authors speculate that the more experienced professors tend to “broaden the curriculum and produce students with a deeper understanding of the material.” (p. 430) That is, because they don’t teach directly to the test, they do worse in the short run but better in the long run.
To summarize the findings: because they didn’t teach to the test, the professors who instilled the deepest learning in their students came out looking the worst in terms of student evaluations and initial exam performance. To me, these results were staggering, and I don’t say that lightly.
Bottom line? Student evaluations are of questionable value.
* I have known a few teaching award recipients who actually were very good teachers, but I’ve known more who didn’t actually know that much; they were just good at making their students feel good. I even knew one who used to hand out teaching award applications in his class.