“We found that a male professor was more likely to receive comments about his qualification and competence”
According to writer Kristina Mitchell this isn’t just problematic, it’s illegal.
Take a look:
Student Evaluations Can’t Be Used to Assess Professors
Our research shows they’re biased against women. That means using them is illegal.
Imagine that you’re up for a promotion at your job, but before your superior decides whether you deserve it, you have to submit the comments section of an internet article that was written about you for assessment.
Sound a little absurd?
That’s in essence what we ask professors in higher education to do when they submit their teaching evaluations in their tenure and promotion portfolios. At the end of each semester, students are asked to fill out an evaluation of their professor. Typically, they are asked both to rate their professors on an ordinal scale (think 1–5, 5 being highest) and provide written comments about their experience in the course.
In many cases, these written evaluations end up sounding more like something out of an internet comments section than a formal assessment of a professor’s teaching. Everything from personal attacks to text-speak (“GR8T CLASS!”) to sexual objectification has been observed by faculty members who dare to read their evaluation comments at the end of the semester.
But the fact that the evaluations can be cruel and informal to the point of uselessness isn’t even the problem. The problem is that there’s a significant and observable difference in the way teaching evaluations treat men versus women.
A new study I published with my co-author examines gender bias in student evaluations. We looked at the content of the comments in both the formal in-class student evaluations for his courses as compared to mine as well as the informal comments we received on the popular website Rate My Professors. We found that a male professor was more likely to receive comments about his qualification and competence, and that refer to him as “professor.” We also found that a female professor was more likely to receive comments that mention her personality and her appearance, and that refer to her as a “teacher.”
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