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The Departmental Rating Game: Measure of Quantity or Quality?

Charles F. Elton and Sam A. Rodgers
Higher Education
Vol. 2, No. 4 (Nov., 1973), pp. 439-446
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3445666
Page Count: 8
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The Departmental Rating Game: Measure of Quantity or Quality?
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Abstract

What constitutes quality in graduate education? The most widely accepted definition has been proposed by Cartter who asked recognized scholars to rate departmental excellence in 30 disciplines. Cartter's instructions to the raters could have allowed the influence of a "halo effect" to operate. This is an error in rating which is produced when the particular characteristics being rated are contaminated by the rater's notion of the general worthiness of the object being rated. This study demonstrated that the halo effect related to size variables occurred in the Cartter study. Data were collected from public sources for each department of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and geology rated in the Cartter study as "extremely attractive," "attractive," "acceptable plus" and for a random sample of "less than acceptable plus" departments. These data consisted of the following size variables: (1) number of areas of specialization within a department; (2) number of faculty; (3) number of Ph.D. degrees awarded between 1960-64; (4) number of full-time students; (5) number of first year students; and (6) ratio of part-time to full-time students. Tests of statistical significance indicated that these variables differentiated the departmental ratings beyond chance expectation. A graphic illustration is provided for each discipline showing the relationships between the size measures and the mean departmental ratings. Implications of these findings are that measures of size ought not to be confused with measures of quality and that the development of measures of quality is a matter of urgent priority.

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