Title

Trying to Understand 'U.S. News' Rankings for Best Undergraduate Teaching

Some methodological questions.

July 5, 2017
 
 

I have a narrow methodological question.  A technical question.

I want to make sure that I fully understand the methodology behind the U.S. News annual rankings for Best Undergraduate Teaching.

There is maybe a zillion critiques of the entire U.S. News Best Colleges ranking.  See here, and here, and here, and here for some quickly Googled examples.

The question of the relative merits or demerits of the U.S. News rankings is not one I want to debate at this time and in this space.  Rather, my goal is purely for understanding - and only about the Best Undergraduate Teaching methodology.

If you have insights or information on this methodology - or if my understanding is wrong (see below) - then please let us know.

Here is how I think the methodology for coming up with this list goes.

Step 1:  U.S. News sends out a peer assessment survey* to college presidents, provosts and admissions deans.

* Note:  I can’t find a copy of this peer assessment survey anywhere.  The latest data that I can find on the sample size is from the 2013 survey, where U.S. News reports that 842 “top college officials” were surveyed, with a response rate of 53 percent.

Step 2:  The surveyed presidents, provosts, and admissions deans are asked to nominate up to 10 schools (in their institutions category) that they judge to have " an especially strong commitment to undergraduate teaching”.

Step 3:  The rankings are then derived "solely on the responses” of the peer assessment survey, with the ranking order calculated "based on the number of top 10 nominations they received”.  Only schools with 7 or more nominations amongst presidents, provosts and admissions deans as having "especially strong commitment to undergraduate teaching” are included in the list.

And again, so I understand this, the U.S. News rankings for Best Undergraduate Teaching are solely based on a reputational sorting, with that sorting provided only by presidents, provosts, and admissions deans who receive and return the peer assessment survey.

This is what it seems to say in the methodology section:  

"The Best Undergraduate Teaching rankings are based solely on the responses to this separate section of the 2016 peer assessment survey.”  (Emphasis mine).

Is my understanding of how U.S. News comes up with their teaching rankings correct?

Do you have more information or insights into the methodology behind this ranking?

Are there other publications that do a ranking around teaching and learning - and does their methodology differ?

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