Professor evaluation bias

Jennifer Ball, associate professor of economics at the Washburn school of business, revealed some intriguing facts about student evaluations of university professors across the United States.

Anamika Das, [email protected] is a sophomore mass media major

Jennifer Ball, associate professor of economics at the Washburn school of business and president of the Faculty Senate at Washburn, revealed some intriguing facts about student evaluations of university professors across United States.

“The students’ evaluation process was started as a part of the US university culture to receive constructive criticism for improvements,” Ball said.

National research has found that the same professor is often evaluated differently by sets of students under various courses taught by the same professor. Students under an intermediate course are likely to evaluate the professor with lower scores than students who have opted for a principal course under the same professor. Along similar lines, educators and professors teaching courses under hard sciences have been receiving lower scores than the ones teaching courses under soft sciences.

Apart from the levels and complexity of the courses, the demographics of educators have also been recorded as one of the factors for judgment during evaluation. In general, various stereotypes or expectations arise due to the demographics. As found in the studies, students expect more warmth and leniency from female professors than male professors. Also, students might have higher expectations from a professionally senior or biologically older professor than junior or younger professors, which may or may not always hold true. These stereotypical expectations often lead to biased evaluations.

“Although there is extensive data available for demographics, gender and level of courses, not much has been found about ethnicity or race,” Ball said. However, a few studies indicate that difference in accent or linguistic disability and differences between students can also play factors in deciding the evaluation scores.

“If an efficient professor fails to be awarded his or her tenure because of such stereotypes, then it becomes a huge deal,” Ball said.

During a session at the faculty senate meeting on Jan 30, Ball announced the establishment of an evaluation review committee very soon, as one of the major aims of the senate to avoid any such injustice taking place at Washburn.

The committee will not lay out policies or rules, since every department at Washburn follows its own way of evaluating. However, it will go through an in depth study of such available literature, review evaluations, document facts and findings and send out a final document comprising of all the above mentioned information, which shall further help in making policies to neutralize and eliminate any kind of biases in the evaluation process. This will help in a fair process of appraisal, promotion and raises for faculty members at Washburn University.