Researchers shocked to discover they cannot teach

November 21, 2009
By Jackson Miller

A new study pub­lished Friday in the Journal of Educational Science shows con­clu­sive evi­dence for the first time that no cor­re­la­tion exists between earn­ing a Ph.D. and being able to impart use­ful infor­ma­tion to students.

Emory students

Students whin­ing to friends on Facebook Chat

The study, con­ducted by Emory University pro­fes­sor Carla Hoffman,  scru­ti­nized hun­dreds of classes at nationally-recognized schools includ­ing Princeton University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  While the study con­sis­tently showed that social skills and enthu­si­asm had a much greater impact on teach­ing abil­ity than the con­fer­ment of lavishly-decorated paper rec­tan­gles, results were espe­cially con­clu­sive for busi­ness schools.

“We’re shocked,” Dr. Hoffman told Torch over the phone.  “We never sus­pected that hav­ing a doc­tor­ate didn’t auto­mat­i­cally make us spec­tac­u­lar educators.”

Data showed that for each super­flu­ous year a busi­ness pro­fes­sor had remained in school, stu­dent sat­is­fac­tion decreased 3–5%.  By the same token, pro­fes­sors’ smug­ness and detach­ment rose a star­tling 8–11% for each addi­tional year of education.

“We’re par­tic­u­larly sur­prised by the b-school find­ings,” said Hoffman.  “As it turns out, the best pro­fes­sors have some­thing we’re ten­ta­tively refer­ring to as ‘long-term, multi-situational field expe­ri­ence’.  Admittedly we don’t yet know much about it.”

School offi­cials say that, despite the obvi­ous impli­ca­tions of the study, more time will be required before their archaic hir­ing prac­tices can change.

“We’re going to study the prob­lem some more—it’s going to take at least three years of addi­tional research to ver­ify the find­ings,” said Devon Pereira, an Emory College dean.  “Then we’ll begin the stan­dard eight-year plan­ning process, fol­lowed by a two-year tran­si­tional period.  A sub­se­quent eval­u­a­tion period should last no more than four years.”

“Changes in mod­ern acad­e­mia can be almost as fast-paced as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” Dr. Pereira added.  “Sometimes you only really have that 15-year win­dow to make a decision.”

When asked if the school will eschew the ranking-centric decision-making that is endemic to mod­ern post-secondary insti­tu­tions, school offi­cials were clear.

“Rankings are para­mount,” said Goizueta spokesper­son Sara Bagly.  “Magazine edi­tors decide which tangentially-education-related cri­te­ria make a school’s edu­ca­tion ‘good’ and we slav­ishly fab­ri­cate the appear­ance of meet­ing those cri­te­ria.  Sometimes we do have to sac­ri­fice our stu­dents’ edu­ca­tions in order to be rec­og­nized by U.S. News for edu­ca­tional excel­lence, but we can’t change that.  When we’re up against the boom­ing mag­a­zine indus­try, America’s 4,350 uni­ver­si­ties don’t have the money or power required to change the sta­tus quo.”

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