Students give better evaluations to on line instructors they think are male

11 Dec

A paper published in Innovative Higher Education reports that students in on line courses give better evaluations to instructors they think are male, regardless of the actual gender of the instructor. Here is the abstract:

“Student ratings of teaching play a significant role in career outcomes for higher education instructors. Although instructor gender has been shown to play an important role in influencing student ratings, the extent and nature of that role remains contested. While difficult to separate gender from teaching practices in person, it is possible to disguise an instructor’s gender identity online. In our experiment, assistant instructors in an online class each operated under two different gender identities. Students rated the male identity significantly higher than the female identity, regardless of the instructor’s actual gender, demonstrating gender bias. Given the vital role that student ratings play in academic career trajectories, this finding warrants considerable attention.”

This is a very interesting study, however the sample sizes were very small and we would certainly want to see the results replicated. To their credit the authors acknolwedge this limitation:

“First and foremost, these results need to be replicated in other similar online classes. A single case study cannot establish a broad pattern. However, it does suggest the existence of one and provides incentive for further exploration”

Hat tip to Boing Boing.

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