THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 31, Fall 2006

William A. McEachern, Editor

Good and Easy?

As points of reference, I identified the highest rated and lowest rated economists at each of the 32 institutions. The highest rated economists had an overall quality average of 4.6 out of 5.0. The lowest rated economists averaged 1.9 out of 5.0. Among the highest rated economists at each institution, those at elite colleges had the highest average at 4.8. Public universities and community colleges averaged 4.6, and the Ivies, 4.2. Among the lowest rated economists at each institution, elite colleges again had the highest average at 2.3. Averages at other institutions were tightly bunched between 1.6 and 1.7.

Students at RateMyProfessor.com are also asked to rate the "easiness" of the professor based on a 5 point scale, with 1 being "hard" and 5 "easy." Is there any relation between overall quality and easiness? Economists rated highest in overall quality at each of the 32 institutions had an average easiness rating of 3.4, with a range of 2.2 to 4.3. Economists rated lowest in overall quality had an average easiness rating of 2.2, with a range from 1.2 to 3.3. Thus, professors rated highest in overall quality were judged to be easier than those rated lowest in overall quality. Or perhaps the causality runs the other way: Easier professors were judged to be of higher overall quality. As one student commented, the professor " Gave lots of examples, made econ easier than I thought it would be."

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