Bias in Student Evaluations

A few months ago, my colleagues and I were discussing this article about the bias against female instructors in course-end student evaluations. dislaike these evaluations for a number of reasons:

  • Students rarely seem to take them seriously (Brookfield, 2006), as evidenced by a number of unanswered questions and few comments.
  • I don’t get a chance to respond to students, even in a general way, or to get elaboration on some comments.
  • Comments are often contradictory within a single student’s response. For this reason I question the validity of many responses.

I value student’s input, but the format of these evaluations is not very useful or credible. The bias against female instructors came as no surprise to female colleagues, though they hadn’t until then had anything more than suspicion. They feel they are questioned more (not about course content), frequently need to establish credibility, and hear derogatory comments when they aren’t as “nice” or as “easy” as students expect they will be because of their gender.

I was unaware of such gender bias in a profession that I had perceived to be relatively equal. At least in Biology departments I know, there are a large number of well-respected female scholars and instructors.

The administration for the college I work at is unclear on how, if at all, student evaluations are factored in to hiring decisions, but they refuse to say they are not used. This is a concern for all instructors where we are all retained as Sessionals with little assurance of job security.


One thought on “Bias in Student Evaluations

  1. Pingback: Critically Reflective Teacher | "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel"

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