Extra Credit

Extra Credit

Sometimes, Assoc. Prof. Larry Ludlow (LSOE) says, you are your own best guinea pig.

About 10 years ago, Ludlow used his expertise in statistical analysis to create a database on his teaching performance. He entered data from his students' evaluations, then scrutinized the information according to variables ranging from class sizes to his pre and post-tenure periods.

"It was very useful," said Ludlow. "You could see patterns emerging over time. The idea was not to compare myself to the rest of the University, but to try and make sense of these ratings in ways that could help me in the classroom."

In a more recent study, Ludlow narrowed the focus of his analysis to one specific area: his marital status. Taking evaluations from 1983 - his first year at BC - to 2000, Ludlow tracked the ratings in relation to the periods of his marriage, separation and divorce, and remarriage. Ludlow says the results, which he and Lynch School graduate student Rose Alvarez-Salvat published last fall in Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, offer a way to quantify the impact of a quality-of-life issue.

"The purpose of this study was to propose and test a model which could demonstrate the link between marital stability and work performance," he said. "There's been a good body of work on the myriad of interactions between work and family, and their contributions to our identity, self-concept and satisfaction. Most of the 'spillover' research has been on the impact of work and career on personal lives, however, and there is very little on how specific circumstances of divorce and marital discord affect performance and satisfaction at work."

Ludlow says that his longitudinal self-studies offer a potential method by which educators, and many other professionals, can gauge the potential significance of positive and negative factors in their work.

"I'm certainly not trying to generalize my ratings or results for everyone. What I'm saying is, anyone can be their own evaluator, if they're thoughtful enough about which variables to use. For example, I changed the format in one of my classes, and took a smaller-group approach. When I looked at the evaluations from that class over time, I could see the evaluations tended to be more positive in the period after I had made the change compared to the one before it.

"Was that the only factor affecting students' evaluations? Probably not. Is my marital stability the only thing that affects my performance? No. But when you can see the possible cause-and-effect relationship, it gives you some kind of context in which to reflect on how you are doing in the classroom."

Of the journal article, which does not refer to him as the test subject - he is identified as a professor teaching at a school of education in a New England area university - Ludlow said, "To some extent, it was idiosyncratic, using myself as the anonymous subject and all. But what's serious is the need to take a fuller look at how one's personal and family life can affect job performance."

-Sean Smith


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