Evaluating a fake teacher (à la a fake babe on a dating site)

Two medical educators injected a fake teacher into an evaluate-your-teachers survey, in a medical school. Ivan Oransky, writing in MedPage Today, describes the study and the incident that motivated those two medical educators:

Dear medical school faculty members, here’s a question that may come to mind as the new academic year gets underway: What if you earned an evaluation for a course you hadn’t taught?

00-Sebastian-UYou might keep it to yourself, I suppose, if the evaluation was good. But if it was just average — as happened to Sebastian Uijtdehaage, PhD [pictured here], of the Geffen UCLA School of Medicine in 2006 — you might be “flummoxed.”

In fact, if you’re Uijtdehaage, the episode might raise “the sticky question of whether medical students are completing [teaching evaluations] mindlessly, without due diligence,” and might prompt you to study the subject — which Uijtdehaage and his colleague Christopher O’Neal, PhD, did.

The researchers went so far as to  include a photo “of an attractive young model who, perhaps regretfully, did not resemble any of our faculty members.” That fake teacher-babe drew some responses — though fewer responses when her picture was included than when she was a mere textual description.

The study itself is: “A curious case of the phantom professor: mindless teaching evaluations by medical students,” Sebastian Uijtdehaage and Christopher O’Neal, Medical Education, Volume 49, Issue 9, September 2015, pages 928–932.