Elina Azrilyan

Data 606 - Lab 8

December 14th, 2018

Grading the professor

Many college courses conclude by giving students the opportunity to evaluate the course and the instructor anonymously. However, the use of these student evaluations as an indicator of course quality and teaching effectiveness is often criticized because these measures may reflect the influence of non-teaching related characteristics, such as the physical appearance of the instructor. The article titled, “Beauty in the classroom: instructors’ pulchritude and putative pedagogical productivity” (Hamermesh and Parker, 2005) found that instructors who are viewed to be better looking receive higher instructional ratings. (Daniel S. Hamermesh, Amy Parker, Beauty in the classroom: instructors pulchritude and putative pedagogical productivity, Economics of Education Review, Volume 24, Issue 4, August 2005, Pages 369-376, ISSN 0272-7757, 10.1016/j.econedurev.2004.07.013. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775704001165.)

In this lab we will analyze the data from this study in order to learn what goes into a positive professor evaluation.

The data

The data were gathered from end of semester student evaluations for a large sample of professors from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition, six students rated the professors’ physical appearance. (This is aslightly modified version of the original data set that was released as part of the replication data for Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models (Gelman and Hill, 2007).) The result is a data frame where each row contains a different course and columns represent variables about the courses and professors.

variable description
score average professor evaluation score: (1) very unsatisfactory - (5) excellent.
rank rank of professor: teaching, tenure track, tenured.
ethnicity ethnicity of professor: not minority, minority.
gender gender of professor: female, male.
language language of school where professor received education: english or non-english.
age age of professor.
cls_perc_eval percent of students in class who completed evaluation.
cls_did_eval number of students in class who completed evaluation.
cls_students total number of students in class.
cls_level class level: lower, upper.
cls_profs number of professors teaching sections in course in sample: single, multiple.
cls_credits number of credits of class: one credit (lab, PE, etc.), multi credit.
bty_f1lower beauty rating of professor from lower level female: (1) lowest - (10) highest.
bty_f1upper beauty rating of professor from upper level female: (1) lowest - (10) highest.
bty_f2upper beauty rating of professor from second upper level female: (1) lowest - (10) highest.
bty_m1lower beauty rating of professor from lower level male: (1) lowest - (10) highest.
bty_m1upper beauty rating of professor from upper level male: (1) lowest - (10) highest.
bty_m2upper beauty rating of professor from second upper level male: (1) lowest - (10) highest.
bty_avg average beauty rating of professor.
pic_outfit outfit of professor in picture: not formal, formal.
pic_color color of professor’s picture: color, black & white.

Exploring the data

  1. Is this an observational study or an experiment? The original research question posed in the paper is whether beauty leads directly to the differences in course evaluations. Given the study design, is it possible to answer this question as it is phrased? If not, rephrase the question.

    This is an observational study since we did not set up an experiment, which would inlcude randomy assigning people into experiment and control groups. We are simply conducting a survey. Since this is an observational study - the quesion cannot be answered as it is phrased since we can’t determine whether beauty is a cause of the difference in ratings. The question we can answe is: “Does beauty have a significant correlation with a difference in course evaluaiton results”?

  2. Describe the distribution of score. Is the distribution skewed? What does that tell you about how students rate courses? Is this what you expected to see? Why, or why not?


The distribution is left skewed, which matches my expectation. I think students feel bad giving very low scores of 1 and 2 - I imagine the scores are somewhere between 3 and 5.

  1. Excluding score, select two other variables and describe their relationship using an appropriate visualization (scatterplot, side-by-side boxplots, or mosaic plot).

    boxplot(evals$score ~ evals$gender)

It appears that Male professors are rated higher than Female professors.

Simple linear regression

The fundamental phenomenon suggested by the study is that better looking teachers are evaluated more favorably. Let’s create a scatterplot to see if this appears to be the case:

plot(evals$score ~ evals$bty_avg)

Before we draw conclusions about the trend, compare the number of observations in the data frame with the approximate number of points on the scatterplot. Is anything awry?

Out data contains 463 observations, but it seems that there are fewed data points, it is possible that the circles which appear darker are the points where our data points are overlapping and appear as a single point.

  1. Replot the scatterplot, but this time use the function jitter() on the \(y\)- or the \(x\)-coordinate. (Use ?jitter to learn more.) What was misleading about the initial scatterplot?

    plot(jitter(evals$score) ~ jitter(evals$bty_avg), main = "Score and Beauty", xlab = "Beauty", ylab = "Score")