Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard, May 16, 2019.
For teachers in the early stages of their academic careers, student evaluations are a big deal. As a study published last year noted, the scores they receive "are often part of hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions."
The same study also found strong evidence that these scores are driven in part by prejudice. "Women receive systematically lower teaching evaluations than their male colleagues," it concludes.
A new study provides evidence that this unfair treatment can be largely corrected by a simple statement. It found that the evaluations of two female instructors were far more positive if students were first reminded about the reality of gender bias.
"We were surprised to see a simple intervention have such a strong effect," lead author David Peterson, a political scientist at Iowa State University, said in announcing the findings. "It really is just one tool, but the results emphasize the need to talk about gender bias more broadly as we consider changes to how we evaluate teaching."
The study, published in the online journal PLoS One, featured four large classes taught at Iowa State in the spring of 2018: two "Introduction to Biology" and two "Introduction to American Politics" courses. One section of each was taught by a white man, while the other was taught by a white woman.