Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Effect of Age, Gender, and Hotness on Student Perceptions of Teacher Quality.

Molly, in the comments my post where I publish my complete SLU course evaluations, notes that two of my female colleages have chili peppers on Ratemyprofessors.com, but so so teaching ratings. This needs to be put in some context, and should even be a springboard for an important discussion.

It is folk wisdom in the faculty lounges that there is a causal interaction between age and gender on student evaluations. Roughly, being young is a plus on your evaluations for men, but a minus for women. I hypothosize a futher age by gender by hotness interaction, such that being young and hot is an extra strong negative factor on student evaluations for women, and at worst a neutral factor for men. My proposed mechanism here is the same as the mechanism that is standardly used to explain the age by gender interaction: the problem of establishing authority. The folk wisdom of the faculty lounges says that young women have trouble estabilishing authority because of the prejudices of their students (both male and female.) I would extend this mechanism further to cover young hot women.

So here is my first question: Where can I find the actual data on this--either the claim of folk wisdom or my claim about hotness.

Another point of context for the chili pepers on ratemyprofessors: ratemyprofessors is not even a valid measure of student perceptions of your performance, let alone your actual performance, because of self-selection bias and incredibly small sample sizes. This is probably obvious to the professors on ratemyprofessors, but less obvious to the students.

This leads me to my second question: can anyone recommend a general resource for contextualizing the information on student evalautions? I am interested, first of all, in their validity simply as a measure of student perceptions. I am also interested in how to bridge the gap between reports of student perceptions and actual measures of quality.

2 comments:

Women's Public Voices said...

I just saw something using Perry's Forms of Intellectual Development and student evaluations to discuss how evaluations reflect the development of the student and how to deal with that as a teacher. Not exactly what you were asking for, but I found it interesting. I couldn't re-find the source, though. :(

Anonymous said...

The Chronicle of Higher Education had a piece on this a few months ago... I can't remember the particular issue number or date, though... it might be a place to start.