Students learned more when their first instructor in a discipline was not on the tenure track, as compared with those whose introductory professor was tenured, according to a new paper from Northwestern University.
The paper, “Are Tenure-Track Professors Better Teachers?,” was released on Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and it sheds new light on the hotly debated topic of whether the increased use of adjunct instructors is helping or hindering students’ learning.
The researchers found “strong and consistent evidence that Northwestern faculty outside of the tenure system outperform tenure track/tenured professors in introductory undergraduate classrooms,” wrote David N. Figlio, director of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research; Morton O. Schapiro, the university’s president; and Kevin B. Soter, an associate consultant at an organization called the Greatest Good, which uses economic methods and data analysis to help businesses.
They also found that students who were relatively less qualified academically fared particularly well when they were taught by faculty members outside the tenure system, especially in courses where high grades were generally tougher to earn. <Read more.>