Why do college students rate female professors more harshly than male professors?
College students in the United States have a voice they employ to make sure future students know who the best and worst professors are.
Ratemyprofessors.com allows college students to anonymously address the strengths and weaknesses of the professors at their college or university. The website claims to have 15 million ratings on 1.4 million professors.
According to two researchers on either side of the Atlantic, student evaluations of professors are biased against women, and the researchers claim it is a systemic bias.
Economist Anne Boring of Paris Science Po was requested to conduct analysis of gender bias in college student evaluations of instructors. She teamed with Philip Stark, associate dean of the University of California-Berkeley Division of mathematical and Physical Sciences department to write “Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness”.
Using students from French and American universities, the studies ran a series of statistics tests to determine how male and female college instructors are judged. The French students were assigned to instructors in a wide range of required courses, and the study authors found that the male French students rated male instructors more highly than they did female instructors.
The students in that part of the study were all given the same anonymously graded final exam, and students with the female instructors did slightly better than the students with the male instructors.
(There are parameters that could affect the scoring in both ends of the study. It is possible the male instructors were better communicators than the females, and it is possible the students in the class with the female instructors were just more intelligent.)
There was no discernable correlation between the ratings students gave their instructors and the grades they got on the tests.
For the American students, they were assigned to participate in an online class with either a male or female instructor communicating only through typed responses. In half the cases, male instructors used female names and female instructors used male names. The instructors were told to proffer the same instruction with the same comments so that interactions with the students were nearly identical.
In America, female students consistently rated the instructors they believed to be male more highly. With no discernable difference in instruction, “male” instructors got higher ratings than “female’’ instructors.
The “male’’ instructors were also rated higher on the task of returning assignments on time, even though the online system ensured that all tests were returned over the same time period.
Asked by National Public Radio’s education staff to suggest a meaning to the results, Stark replied in an email “That the situation is really complicated.”
One year ago, a study from Northeastern University looked at 14 million Rate My Professor reviews to determine if female professors were viewed more negatively than male professors. For instance, they found that ratings of male professors used the word “funny’’ 1,300 times per one million words, while ratings of female professors used the word “funny’’ only 600 times over the same number of words.
Male professors were more often described as “boring’’, while female professors were more often identified as “mean”.
George Mason University student Kaity O’Reilly, interviewed by USA Today, said it is more common to have a funny male professor. She also said that female professors who make demands on students are considered to be “a bitch”. “If a male professor is demanding, then it is seen as more justified.“
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.