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Gender bias in student evaluations of teaching: Students’ self-affirmation reduces the bias by lowering evaluations of male professors

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Students evaluate male professors higher than female professors. In a study that we presented to participants as a test of a new form for student evaluations of teaching (SETs), we examined if self-affirmation (contemplating elements that positively contribute to one’s self-image) reduced the gender bias. Belgian students (n = 568), who were randomly assigned to self-affirm (through either a value-affirmation task or self-superiority priming) or not, read a vignette prompting them to imagine that they had received a good or a bad grade from a male or a female professor. They evaluated the course, the professor, and the form. Non-self-affirmed participants showed a gender bias after a bad grade, disadvantaging the female professor. Self-affirmation eradicated the gender bias by lowering evaluations for the male professor, suggesting that the gender bias involves overvaluing male rather than derogating female professors. Without self-affirmation, the positivity of the SETs was correlated with participants’ evaluation of the SET form itself. Self-affirmation inflated the correlation for the male professor and eradicated it for the female professor. Having students self-affirm before SETs may be useful when SETs are obligatory only. An even better approach is asking SETs before students learn their grades or simply abolish SETs as a factor in hiring and promotion decisions.
Journal: Sex Roles
ISSN: 0360-0025
Issue: 1-2
Volume: 84
Pages: 34 - 48