Study Finds Women Receive Harsher Comments Than Men When Teaching Identical Online Courses

A new study led by Kristina Mitchell, director of undergraduate studies and director of online and regional site education at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, finds that women instructors receive more critical comments than male instructors when they teach identical online courses. And women instructors are rated lower than male instructors. Women instructors were more likely to receive comments about their appearance and competence, or lack thereof.

“We think there is a subconscious bias in which students view men as more qualified and competent,” Dr. Mitchell said. “We found that students indeed refer to a man as ‘professor’ and a woman as ‘teacher,’ which contributes to the idea that students are simply more likely to think of men as qualified to teach at a university level. This is a major issue, because student evaluations are used in hiring, tenure and promotion decisions. If student evaluations are systematically biased against women, then we have a big problem. It’s a discrimination issue, because women are systematically disadvantaged.”

Dr. Mitchell has taught at Texas Tech since 2012. A graduate of the University of North Texas, Dr. Mitchell earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Texas at Dallas.

The study, “Gender Bias in Student Evaluations,” was published on the website of the journal PS: Political Science and Politics. It may be accessed here.


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