A big majority of US colleges and universities use students ratings of their professors when making decisions about hiring, promotion and tenure of those professors. Therefore, these students ratings are very important to a professors career and even the overall success of the college and hence there is need to make sure they are objective and not biased.
So experiments were done to actually assess student ratings of professors of different races and genders and also asses the studentsí performance in the classes taught by those professors.
Gender and race bias can create different expectations for different people. For example since women are expected to be more caring, a student rater may scrutinize the female professors interpersonal skills more when rating them, than for example when rating a male professor.
It is also known that minorities and women often need to work harder to be perceived as equally competent to white males. It is also known that when a person makes a mistake, it is bound to be viewed more negatively if that person is from a minority group. For example, students responded more negatively to getting low grades from a woman or minority professor than they do from a white male professor.
There are also gender differences in ratings for both the students and professors. Male professors are usually rated similarly by both male and female students but female professors are rated less by their male students as compared to their female students.
Male students are also less likely to name a female professor as their favorite or best as opposed to female students. However female students often name female professors as their favorite and best.
The qualities described as best are also different for both male and female professors. Male professors voted as best are those viewed as being funny while female professors voted best are viewed as more nurturing and caring.
However, male professors are often rated higher in terms of knowledge of their subject and enthusiasm for teaching.
In terms of race, studies have shown that African American and Hispanic professors receive lower evaluation by students as opposed to White and Asian professors. For example, Black male professors are rated especially low by their students on the Faculty rating website ratemyprofessor.com.
In large universities in the Southern United states, black faculty are consistently rated lower than their white counterparts. It is not known if this is due to racial bias in the south or actual differences in teaching.
Some studies have shown that there is racial bias in the way students rate their professors. They took black and white professors who had equal overall performance ratings and then asked students to rate them. The students perception of intellectual competence were a big factor in how they graded black professors as compared to white professors.
Students also tended to learn more from professors who were rated higher because the students tended to pay attention more to higher rated professors.
Studentsí performance can be used as a more accurate measure of their bias towards their professor. One study showed that students often rated some African American professors higher than white professors, but performed better in subjects taught by the white professors. So it looks like students pay more attention to professors whom they have less bias against.