November 24, 2003
"The students awarded the highest marks to the most rigorous and demanding professors"

I hope that Madsen Pirie won't mind me reproducing this entire posting:

Adam Smith famously thought that professors whose pay came from their students performed better. At Oxford, he noted, "the greater part of the public professors have, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching." (Could Oxford students tell us if this is still true?)

When I was a professor at Hillsdale, part of my pay was determined by students. We were all assessed by our students, who could add up to ten percent onto our salary. There were widespread predictions that students would favour the teachers who gave easy grades, the ones who handed out an A if you just reproduced lectures or the book.

In fact it didn't happen. The students awarded the highest marks to the most rigorous and demanding professors, even though it was harder to get an A from them. Most students were paying for themselves, and it was value they wanted, not an easy ride. They could tell the difference a mile off, and didn't want to be fobbed off with second rate.

Maybe if such a system were more widespread, it would impel university lecturers to attend to the quality of their teaching, instead of affecting to disdain it in their pursuit of the higher goal of 'research.'

I think that's a clutch of observations that deserves to get around, and I hope this helps. Alex Singleton is also impressed.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:38 PM
Category: The private sector