TO THE EDITOR:
Recent research suggests that students rate female professors more harshly than male professors. When a female professor of an online course pretends she is male, her evaluations are significantly higher than when students know she is a female, and evaluations of female professors are more likely to focus on aspects of personality or appearance rather than intellect or skill in the classroom.
Gender bias in course evaluations can be reduced by focusing comments on feedback that is useful for improving instruction. Ideally, student comments will help us improve our instructional techniques and thus improve the learning experience of future Carolina students. Comments that are vague, belittling, personal or based on gender expectations do not help us make our courses better.
Some course evaluation feedback is flattering but too generic to be useful: “The course was great!”
Some feedback is inappropriate for an evaluation because it’s about personal traits (and may feed into gender stereotypes): “She was ALWAYS stylish.”
Some feedback is simply demeaning: “Dr. (X) is a b****.”
The best feedback helps us improve our teaching by citing specific examples of what worked or didn’t work in the class: “(The) tests seemed more difficult than the information that was presented. I need more hand holding/practice.”
Research paints a stark picture of the unfair standards to which female professors are held in course evaluations, but we as a community can work to be fair to all professors by providing feedback that is relevant and constructive. After all, we are working toward a common goal: the best learning opportunities possible.
Prof. Kelly Hogan