Inside Higher Ed, Study Says Students Rate Men More Highly Than Women Even When They Are Teaching Identical Courses:
A new study in PS: Political Science [Gender Bias in Student Evaluations] combines elements of prior research on gender bias in student evaluations of teaching, or SETs, and arrives at a serious conclusion: institutions using these evaluations in tenure, compensation and other personnel decisions may be engaging in gender discrimination.
“Our analysis of comments in both formal student evaluations and informal online ratings indicates that students do evaluate their professors differently based on whether they are women or men,” the study says. “Students tend to comment on a woman’s appearance and personality far more often than a man’s. Women are referred to as ‘teacher’ [as opposed to professor] more often than men, which indicates that students generally may have less professional respect for their female professors.”
Based on empirical evidence of online SETs, it continues, “bias does not seem to be based solely (or even primarily) on teaching style or even grading patterns. Students appear to evaluate women poorly simply because they are women.
Slate Op-Ed: Student Evaluations Can’t Be Used to Assess Professors, by Kristina Mitchell (Texas Tech):
Our research shows they’re biased against women. That means using them is illegal. ...
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.” ...
This is not to say we should never evaluate teachers. Certainly, we can explore alternate methods of evaluating teaching effectiveness. We could use peer evaluations (though they might be subject to the same bias against women), self-evaluation, portfolios, or even simply weigh the evaluation scores given to women by 0.4 points, if that is found to be the average difference between men and women across disciplines and institutions. But until we’ve found a way to measure teaching effectiveness that isn’t biased against women, we simply cannot use teaching evaluations in any employment decisions in higher education.