Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Good First Impression Sticks with Students

Loyola Study Examines How Med Students Evaluate Professors

MAYWOOD, Ill. -- A study of how medical students evaluate their professors is illustrating the critical importance of making a good first impression. Students in a physiology course at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine were asked to evaluate 16 professors who lectured during the course. Students had the option of evaluating each professor concurrently during the course, or waiting until the course ended. Students were allowed to change their minds before the evaluations were finalized at the end of the course. The study, published in the December 2010 issue of the journal Advances in Physiology Education, included 144 students. Twenty-six percent filled out evaluations during the course and 65 percent waited until the course ended. Nine percent did not submit evaluations. The scores professors received on early evaluations were markedly similar to the scores they received on evaluations made after the course ended. (In statistical terms, the correlation was .91.) And students rarely changed their minds about professors -- only 3 percent of evaluations were revised before the evaluations were finalized. "Students tended not to change their scores and comments, regardless of the time they submitted their evaluations," researchers wrote. "Hence, first impressions appear to be important." For decades, students in colleges and graduate schools have been evaluating their professors. Faculty promotion and tenure decisions are based in part on these evaluations. "The first lecture a faculty member gives to a class really sets the impression," said John A. McNulty, PhD, first author of the study. "The professor is either going to click with the student's learning style, or not." At Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine, students are asked to rate how well professors communicate, relate course content to learning objectives and add to the student's understanding. Professors are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 the worst and 5 the best. Students also can write comments. In the most recent evaluations, the average score for basic science faculty was 4.2, and the average score for clinical faculty (physicians) was 4.38. "We have a really good faculty," McNulty said. "The distribution of scores is skewed toward the high end." McNulty is a professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology. Co-authors of the study are Dr. Gregory Gruener, professor in the Department of Neurology; Dr. Arcot Chandrasekhar, professor in the Department of Medicine; Dr. Baltazar Espiritu, associate professor in the Department of Medicine; Amy Hoyt, manager of information technologies for Loyola University Health System; and David Ensminger, clinical assistant professor in the School of Education at Loyola University Chicago.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.