A new study demonstrates that college students in online courses give better evaluations to instructors they think are men, even when the instructor is actually a woman.
The ratings given by the students to instructors are really important as they are used to guide higher education dbiecisions related to hiring, promotions and tenure.
"If the results of these evaluations are inherently biased against women, we need to find ways to address that problem," said Lillian MacNell, lead author and a PhD student in sociology at North Carolina State University.
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 eight 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.
Due to the format of online groups, students did not see or hear their instructor.
At the end of the course, students were asked to rate the discussion group instructors on 12 different traits, covering characteristics related to their effectiveness and interpersonal skills.
"We found that the instructor whom students thought was male received higher ratings on all 12 traits, regardless of whether the instructor was actually male or female," MacNell said.
In other words, students who thought they were being taught by women gave lower evaluation scores than students who thought they were being taught by men.
The paper appeared online in the journal Innovative Higher Education.