Using more than data

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Last week, the Austin American-Statesman ran a story examining the teaching performance evaluation process at UT. The article comes after months of debate surrounding faculty productivity and higher education reform.

The Statesman’s story highlights the inherent problems in attempts to measure teaching in higher education. In July, for example, former UT System adviser Rick O’Donnell published a report that categorized UT professors into groups such as “coasters” and “sherpas” based on teaching workloads and the amount of research revenue generated. While teaching workloads and research dollars are easily quantified, they do not reflect the quality of a professor.

Until now, the debate regarding faculty productivity has largely centered around separating teaching from research and using these quantitative metrics to evaluate a professor. However, we should also, and perhaps more importantly, focus on whether a professor is educating. How does a professor impact and educate his or her students? Measuring this would require much more than data.