Could student feedback make Teaching Excellence Framework sexist?

‘One thing that is clear about the impending Teaching Excellence Framework is that results from the National Students Survey will assume increasing importance for universities. Indeed, it is being considered a key metric of teaching success….

One study compared student reactions to the very same online teacher, who posed as male for some students and female for others. They received substantially better scores when “male”. Another showed that women were especially likely to be negatively evaluated if they did not give high marks, or if they communicated negative feedback. The latter is particularly troubling, since communicating constructive criticism is a crucial part of students’ academic development. A further study found a similar effect for race, so it would not be surprising if teaching evaluations also encoded race bias. This would be very worrying when black women are already vastly under-represented in academia.

Are students deliberately discriminating on the basis of race or gender? Almost certainly not. Psychological research over the last two decades has brought to light the disturbing phenomenon of implicit bias. Research on implicit bias has shown us that we are often, outside of our awareness and against our better judgment, influenced by the biases that are prevalent in our culture.

This can happen even if we are genuinely committed egalitarians, and even if we are members of the group in question, for example, women students have shown bias against women lecturers. These biases lead people to take women less seriously as authority figures, to judge women more harshly if they are not nurturing, and to generally see men as more competent. It is easy to see how this could lead to lower teaching evaluation scores for women, especially women who give low marks or critical feedback.’ - Guardian


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