Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pareto Principle


The Pareto principle (or the 80-20 rule) states that often 80% of the results come from 20% of the participants (or words to that effect.) See HERE. The exact percentages can often vary but the upshot is often the same … disproportionality. Dartmouth seems to have fallen into this same paradigm insofar as class attendance is concerned. Joe Asch has pointed out this imbalance in the popular Dartblog to which he often contributes. See HERE. He has also frequently lamented in this same blog how Dartmouth students are experiencing increased difficulty getting into classes of their first preference.

Now if, according to Joe’s above blog entry, 33% of the student sign-ups are in 63% of the available classes, then 67% of the student sign-ups are in 37% of the available classes! No wonder that there is (to echo Joe’s complaint) so much denial of student-requested first-choice class sign-ups. This also suggests to me that there may be a large number of somewhat spurious classes at Dartmouth with just a sprinkling of students (Native-American Studies, Gender Studies, etc.?). But, it is also encouraging to me that the vast majority of Dartmouth students are apparently eager to attend those classes in which they might learn something useful in their coming careers (Economics, History, Physics, Government, Chemistry, etc.)

Perhaps we should also pay professors based upon the Pareto principle – 37% of the professors should get 67% of the available faculty salaries … dependent upon the number of students they attract to their courses. I'm just half kidding.

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