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Prestige or education: college teaching and rigor of courses in prestigious and non-prestigious institutions in the U.S.

Abstract

It is often assumed that higher prestige colleges and universities, via the rankings, have a better quality of education. Yet, the prestige structure in U.S. higher education favors resources, research, and student selectivity over teaching and undergraduate educational practices. Using quantitative observational data from 587 courses across 9 institutions of higher education in the U.S., this study examines whether courses in high prestige institutions have stronger teaching and academic rigor than courses in lower prestige institutions. Using a broad scale observational protocol, the study provides a closer look at course practices as they unfold, while also examining trends across contexts. Findings show initial evidence that the assumption that higher prestige institutions in the U.S. have better in-class educational experiences could be re-examined.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Harvard University was not included in this study, but is used as an example on the use of measures of quality.

  2. 2.

    For a detailed description of the observational protocol, including training, rubric tuning, and validation, contact (author).

  3. 3.

    The teaching and rigor measures did not differ by tenure track status, so it was not included as a co-variate.

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Correspondence to Corbin M. Campbell.

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This research was supported by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation fellowship

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Campbell, C.M., Jimenez, M. & Arrozal, C.A.N. Prestige or education: college teaching and rigor of courses in prestigious and non-prestigious institutions in the U.S.. High Educ 77, 717–738 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0297-3

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Keywords

  • Higher education
  • Prestige
  • College teaching
  • Academic rigor
  • Observation