Gender Bias in Student Evaluations
by Kristina M. W. Mitchell, Texas Tech University and Jonathan Martin, Midland College
Are Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs) biased against women? Mounting evidence continues to show that this is the case. In their article, “Gender Bias in Student Evaluations,” Mitchell & Martin use two novel methods to test for gender bias. First, they check formal and informal commentary in student evaluations to see if students use different language when evaluating a man versus a woman. Second, they perform a quasi-experiment to see if students give women lower evaluation scores in identical online courses. The authors find that students tend to evaluate women on different criteria (specifically, women are evaluated on personality and appearance). They also find that women are more likely to be viewed as less qualified than men: women are far more likely to be referred to as “teacher” instead of “professor.” Finally, Mitchell & Martin compare evaluation scoring and find that students give male professors higher evaluation scores, even when all course content is completely identical. The use of student evaluations, the authors argue, is a discrimination issue: if SETs, which evidence suggests are biased against women, are used in hiring and promotion decisions, then women are being discriminated against in higher education employment decisions.