Millions of college students use online sites such as RateMyProfessors to show what they think of their instructors and find out more about certain faculty before enrolling in their courses.
However, a new study of almost eight million online ratings of professors at U.S. universities revealed a troublesome pattern.
“So across all of the disciplines on the site, there’s not one discipline where female professors score higher than male professors,” explained Andrew Rosen, a graduate student at Northwestern University and developer of the computer program used to analyze the ratings. Rosen believes the difference in ratings is evidence of gender bias among students, although he suggests most students aren’t aware they’re rating female instructors lower on average.
The ratings analysis also uncovered signs of other types of bias. Instructors who got high ratings for good looks received higher ratings overall for quality as well. Not surprising, students also gave higher quality ratings to professors whose classes were deemed “easy.”
Science and math instructors also averaged lower ratings than their colleagues in fields such as art and foreign languages. One reason, according to Rosen, might be that faculty in scientific disciplines may have more experience in research, rather than teaching.