Students Give Better Evaluations If They Think They’re Being Taught by a Man

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Another day, another study revealing gender biases we maybe didn’t know we had. Today’s example: College students taking online classes gave their instructors better evaluations if they thought the instructor was a man — even if they were actually being taught by a woman, according to a study published this month in the journal Innovative Higher Education. 

More on the methodology, according to the press release:

To address whether students judge female instructors differently than male instructors, the researchers evaluated a group of 43 students in an online course. The students were divided into four discussion groups of 8 to 12 students each. A female instructor led two of the groups, while a male instructor led the other two. 

However, the female instructor told one of her online discussion groups that she was male, while the male instructor told one of his online groups that he was female. Because of the format of the online groups, students never saw or heard their instructor. 

In their evaluations, students who believed they’d been taught by a man gave their instructor higher ratings on professionalism, fairness, respectfulness, enthusiasm, and promptness. And this is important, lead author Lillian MacNell explained in the press release, because student evaluations are one of the things universities use to decide which instructors get promotions, or tenure. MacNell, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, intends to continue to use online courses to explore this area further, so a heads-up to students taking these classes at NC State. They may be watching you.